Some of the DFL candidates for governor say Matt Entenza, also a candidate, told them he will spend "whatever it takes" to win the race.
Entenza talked individually with seven of the potential DFL candidates for governor about a year ago. Five of those candidates said the conversations centered on the race for governor and what it would take to win.
"I think his words were, 'Lois and I have been really fortunate, and we've got the resources to spend whatever we need to spend to win a primary.' And that was what he was going to do," said DFL state Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook.
Entenza's wife, Lois Quam, made millions in her former job as an executive with UnitedHealth Group. She left that company in 2007 and is now CEO of her own company.
State Rep. Paul Thissen of Minneapolis recalled a similar conversation with Entenza.
"I think he was trying to give his perspective to run a successful race, and it would cost a lot of money, and he would have the resources to do that and maybe some other people wouldn't," Thissen said.
“He came early. He told me he was running. Sometimes that's a courtesy, sometimes that's trying to keep people from running.”Mayor R.T. Rybak
Former state Sen. Steve Kelley of Hopkins also talked to Entenza.
"My recollection is that he used the number $6 million," Hopkins said.
So did Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher of Minneapolis.
"Over a year ago, he actually indicated that he would spend much more than that; double that amount," she said.
Several of the candidates said they believed Entenza was giving them the courtesy of informing them of his intentions. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said it may have been more than that.
"He came early. He told me he was running. Sometimes that's a courtesy, sometimes that's trying to keep people from running," Rybak said. "Both of which are perfectly legitimate things, but the amount of money people have isn't going to turn me away."
For his part, Entenza said he was only giving his potential opponents an estimate of what he thought the race would cost if Gov. Pawlenty ran for re-election. Pawlenty announced in June that he isn't seeking a third term and Entenza said it's not clear how much of his own money he will spend.
"We don't have any budget on the campaign," Entenza said. "Right now we're raising money and the money we're spending is the money we're raising...Obviously, I'm hoping that I'm the DFL-endorsed candidate and the field is cleared out and we'll see who the Republican endorsed candidate is."
It's difficult to tell whether Entenza is currently relying on contributions or his personal wealth, because campaign finance reports aren't due until late January.
Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner, state Sen. John Marty of Roseville and state Rep. Tom Rukavina said they never met with Entenza. John Marty is one of seven Democrats who hope every candidate abides by the DFL endorsement. He said he hopes Entenza, and former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, don't tap their personal wealth if they run in a primary.
"I just think that people are sick of having government up for sale and the one who has the most money, either self-financed or big money, people buying elections," Marty said. "I don't think that's Minnesota values."
Steve Kelley is the only candidate who wouldn't say whether he will abide by the party's endorsement.
Entenza said he'll abide by the endorsement as long as the other serious candidates do the same. Mark Dayton has already indicated he'll run in a primary. Dayton's campaign manager said Dayton and Entenza talked about the race but declined to provide details of what they said.
Ten of the DFL candidates who are either running or are considering a run for governor will debate Friday afternoon in Duluth.