After easily winning a third term in Tuesday's city election, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is now poised to launch his 2010 campaign for governor. But even though Rybak has been acting like a gubernatorial candidate for several months, he says he's not in a hurry to officially enter the race.
In the ballroom of a downtown hotel, R.T. Rybak greeted supporters who gathered for his election night victory party. The Minneapolis mayor talked about voter turnout, city business and family matters. What Rybak wasn't talking about were specifics of his next campaign.
"It's clear that I've been looking very hard at the governor's race," Rybak said. "And I may very well enter that race. Right now, it's a night to hopefully get this out of the way and then tomorrow get right back to work. I need to just let the dust settle a little bit and talk to some folks. And that will all come in due time."
Rybak was also vague about the likely timing of his decision. At one point he said he needed a couple of weeks, but later in the night said it would take a couple of months.
While Rybak tried to deflect questions about the future, his supporters were eager to speculate. Phyllis Taylor said she's ready to help with another campaign.
"Well, if he runs for governor, we'll back him up," Taylor said. "Me and my roommate, the two of us have been campaigning for him, and we'll back him up all the way and campaign for him, because he'd make a heck of a good governor I feel."
Another supporter, Curtis Neff, was also getting enthusiastic about a Rybak for governor campaign.
"I think that would be a good step for him and for the rest of Minnesota," Neff said. "I'd support that. I'd really like to see it actually."
An unofficial campaign didn't stop Teamsters Local 120 from endorsing Rybak for governor back in September. And the mayor has been a regular participant in many gubernatorial forums around the state, appearing with nine other DFL candidates. One of those candidates, state Rep. Paul Thissen of Minneapolis, showed up at the mayor's party.
Thissen said there's no question that Rybak is running for governor, whether he's doing it officially or unofficially.
"At the events I've been to, he's been very explicit about the fact that he's running for governor," Thissen said. "I don't think an official announcement will change the dynamic of the race at all. I think everybody assumes he's running for governor, and they've made their calculations accordingly."
The campaign status of Rybak might not matter to other DFL candidates, but it could be hurting the mayor himself in the race for campaign contributions. He can't start to raise or spend money until he files the paperwork required for a gubernatorial campaign, and Republicans have been making an issue out of Rybak not yet filing that paperwork.
Tony Sutton, chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota, claims Rybak has already violated campaign law by traveling to various candidate events.
"Playing these sorts of games is fine in one respect," Sutton said. "I'm a political a person, I understand how that works. But there's also the law and when you travel, and when you do things, even if you're spending the money out of your own pocket, you still have to account for it."
During an election night interview, Rybak said he'll be looking into campaign filing requirements in the coming days. As far as additional campaign travels, the mayor said he had no idea what his schedule looked like for the rest of the week. But organizers of a DFL gubernatorial forum Sunday in Moorhead say Rybak has confirmed that he'll participate.