A long list of Minnesotans who want to be the state's next governor are working hard this summer to try to gain an early advantage in delegate support and campaign fundraising.
At least eight of nine Republicans on that growing list of gubernatorial hopefuls converged Thursday night in Roseville to make pitches for their campaigns during a GOP picnic.
The large field of DFL candidates running for governor in 2010 began taking shape more than a year ago. Ten Democrats have filed state paperwork, and more are expected.
The Republican scramble started largely from scratch in early June when Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced he wouldn't seek a third term. Within 24 hours of that announcement, State Representative Marty Seifert of Marshall said he was stepping down as House minority leader to begin testing the waters for a statewide campaign. Seifert now says his top issue is the growth of new jobs, by removing government barriers.
"Our main theme is about common sense," Seifert said. "I see so many examples of lack of common sense in state government and I want to instill that. I have a daughter who turns seven today and a son who is four, and I want a better Minnesota for them."
Seifert has a lot of competition, including two of his House colleagues. State Representatives Tom Emmer of Delano and Paul Kohls of Victoria are also seeking the GOP endorsement with similar campaign themes of fiscal responsibility and smaller government. Emmer is serving his third term in the Legislature, but he says he's running as an outsider.
"This is not my career," he said. "My decisions are not based on whether or not it's going to effect my next campaign."
Two state senators, David Hann of Eden Prairie and Mike Jungbauer of East Bethel, as well as a former state representative, Bill Haas of Champlin, are also in the GOP race. Several candidates share similar legislative resumes and conservative ideology. Paul Kohls, who also works for an insurance company, says that's why he's stressing the differences in style.
"My private-sector experience, coupled with my public-sector experience in the Legislature for the last seven years, gives me a unique ability to communicate not just to Republican activists, but to a much broader cross section of Minnesotans in a way they can appreciate, understand and agree with," he said.
So far, only one Republican woman is a declared candidate for governor. But former state auditor Pat Anderson of Dellwood says she's stressing her managerial experience, not gender.
"You know, Republicans don't look at it that way," she said. "We don't get into gender debates and we don't say ' we need a woman or we need a man' or whatever. We just simply don't talk about that. I think people don't look at me as a female candidate. They look at me as a leader and as a conservative and that's how we're going to run the campaign."
State Representative Laura Brod of New Prague was putting together a campaign earlier this year, but she suspended the effort to address an unspecified health issue. Brod says she has not yet decided if she'll get back into the race.
The other GOP candidates are Phil Herwig of Milaca, who's previously run for congress in the 8th district, and Leslie Davis of Minneapolis, an environmental activist and frequent candidate. Herwig and Davis were both in the race before Gov. Pawlenty stepped aside. Davis says two issues define his campaign.
"The primary theme is the money issue," he said. "How to bring money into circulation, debt- and tax-free. And the second one is personal physical safety. Those are my two key issues."
The Republican candidates are trying to build support in advance of a state GOP convention Oct. 3 in St. Paul. GOP delegates will select their preferences for governor at that event in a non-binding straw poll. Those results could begin to narrow the field. Republicans will endorse a candidate for governor earlier next year.