House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, stood on the steps of the State Capitol herding Republican candidates before the start of his news conference. All 134 House seats are up for grabs November 4, and Seifert says he'll have a GOP candidate in every district when the filing period ends a week from now, even the districts considered DFL strongholds.
"Giving Democrats free rides and letting them run unopposed I think is simply un-American," Seifert told the crowd.
Republicans lost the House majority in 2006. Democrats currently have a large 36 seat advantage, but Seifert says the GOP can close that gap and retake control in just one election.
Seifert says this year's crop of Republican candidates looks more like Minnesota, with a handful of racial minorities and a record 30 women.
"We are extremely proud that we will not be a Smurf village as we move into the election process where we just have one female walking around, but we are moving into the 21st century as a party and stretching out our reach as a party to as many people as possible," said Seifert.
One of those women candidates is former Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer of Big Lake who is running for the 16B seat currently held by former Republican Mark Olson. House Republicans voted last year to permanently remove Olson from their caucus after the eight-term incumbent was found guilty of one count of misdemeanor assault against his wife.
Kiffmeyer says Olson's situation is the reason she's running.
"My district kept coming to me and saying we're going to lose, we need you," said Kiffmeyer. "And these are coming from people that are not active politically or anything else. They're just folk back home that you just know."
Kiffmeyer says she doesn't know if she'll face Olson in a primary. Olson, who hasn't yet announced his intentions, was not immediately available for comment. He did not attend the Republican event.
Also absent were the six members leaders punished last session when they sided with Democrats to override Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto of a transportation funding bill. Some have retired and others have yet to announce their plans.
Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, is running for a sixth term, even though local party leaders withheld their endorsement this time. Abeler says many voters appreciate his independent-minded approach.
"As I talk with the man on the street and the woman on the street and the young adult on the street, they're happy that I work that way. And they're even more inclined to vote for me knowing how I'm going to continue to work," said Abeler.
Democrats are also looking forward to the campaign season. House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, is predicting a good year for DFL candidates after two good legislative sessions.
"Democrats took control of the Legislature last election. And we promised to stick to the basics and deliver on education and nursing home and health care reform, jobs and the infrastructure, and we did so on all accounts. And we got our work done on time," said Sertich.
Sertich says Democrats also plan to campaign and compete in every district with an eye on expanding their majority.