The only time the Independence Party was a winner, it was carried to the governor’s mansion on the broad shoulders of celebrity candidate Jesse Ventura.
This morning, the IP’s endorsed candidate for governor, Tom Horner, introduced his running mate, Jim Mulder. He is a broad-shouldered fellow, but hardly a celebrity. Surely, the first reaction from Minnesotans who are paying any attention at all is: “Who?”
Mulder recently retired after a couple of decades as executive director of the Association of Minnesota Counties. Before that, he worked in the 1980s for the Republican House caucus, meaning the Horner ticket will be labeled by DFLers as “just another Republican ticket” and by contemporary Republicans as “tax and spend RINOs.”
Horner, who once worked for Sen. Dave Durenberger, has never denied being a Republican until “the party left me.” Mulder says he’s never been a card-carrying Republican.
“I’ve never attended a Republican caucus,” he said. In fact, he’s twice voted for IP gubernatorial candidates, Tim Penny in 2002 and Peter Hutchinson in 2006.
What this ticket will try to sell is reform, the middle road and competence.
Horner and Mulder can talk policy. They even seem to like talking policy. Their news conference this morning was filled with detailed talk of everything from whether Minnesota has too many counties, to a sunsets on state mandates to the property tax evaluation of farmland.
Isn’t this ticket a little dry? Isn’t it the antithesis of Ventura?
“This isn’t 1998, when Minnesotans felt they could elect a celebrity candidate,” said Horner. “This is 2010. …” Minnesotans, he believes, are ready to take this gubernatorial race very seriously because Minnesotans understand that the state budget is a mess.
Jack Uldrich, chairman of the Independence Party, believes Minnesotans will be serious this time, too. It will be up to the party and Horner-Mulder to make wonkishness “a political strength,” Uldrich said.
But Horner added one important realistic element to the IP dream of capturing the attention of Minnesotans with wonk speak: Money. He says that the ticket will need $2.5 million to run a campaign that will allow Minnesotans to get to know this ticket.
Horner’s selection of Mulder pretty much completes the running-mate selection process.
Interesting choices, soon to be forgotten
If nothing else, this has been a year of interesting lieutenant governor choices. We have an Elvis impersonator, Todd Anderson, the choice of perennial DFL candidate Ole Savior, who this time around is trying his luck as a Republican. We have a former TV anchor, Robyne Robinson, the choice of DFL candidate Matt Entenza. We have Margaret Anderson Kelliher, the DFL’s endorsed choice for governor, picking John Gunyou, who was the finance guru under Republican Gov. Arne Carlson. We have a former Newt Gingrich staffer, Annette Meeks, as the choice of the Republican’s endorsed candidate, Tom Emmer.
Of course, now that the running mates have been selected, they’ll be pretty much forgotten.
What may have been most significant about Horner’s selection of Mulder is that since Rudy Perpich selected Marlene Johnson as his running mate in 1982, Minnesota gubernatorial male candidates typically have selected female running mates — and in the case of Kelliher, a female candidate has picked a male running mate.
Horner was asked about “two white guys” on the ticket.
“That’s out of the box these days,” Horner said, laughing. He was quick to add that “diversity is important” and that his ticket will seek “to invigorate the whole state.”
Certainly, Mulder, because of his position with the Association of Minnesota Counties, has connections in county government centers across the state.
And because of his long tenure with the association, he also has been involved in studies that are controversial. This morning, for example, the state’s Republican Party was quick to jump all over an association study that once raised the possibility of reducing the number of state troopers by 50 percent.
Mulder defended that study by saying that if Minnesotans want “true reform” people have to be able to discuss all sorts of ideas, including some that are “on the far edge.”
It was obvious that the Republican Party is taking the Horner-Mulder ticket seriously. Republicans passed out a news release about the Horner/Mulder ticket even before Horner officially announced Mulder as his running mate.
“With his selection of long time political insider and former client Jim Mulder as his running mate, Tom Horner has added another cheerleader for higher taxes and more spending to his team,” Tony Sutton said in the news release handed out to reporters attending the Horner announcement.
‘I don’t think that will be an issue’
The County Association was a client of the Himle-Horner firm in 2002. In fact, over the years, Himle-Horner has had large number of government clients, or clients that have done business with government. Horner said today that “I don’t think that will be an issue for the people of Minnesota.” He also said that whenever questions are raised, he’ll explain his relationship with those clients “fully.”
One final point of interest on today’s announcement. There has been considerable speculation that, in the past, the IP ticket has hurt DFL gubernatorial candidates but that this ticket may appeal to moderate Republicans who no longer feel welcome in their party.
Not only did the Republicans have a news release available at the news conference, but the party’s deputy chairman, Michael Brodkorb, also was on hand after the Horner-Mulder announcement, blasting the IPs with the sort of vehemence that he usual saves for DFLers.