Republican Pat Anderson announced Tuesday that she is dropping out of the race for governor and will instead run for state auditor.
Anderson has been on the campaign trail for months. But she says her efforts to raise money and court GOP delegates were hurt by the continued speculation over a potential Norm Coleman candidacy.
Anderson was one of nine Republicans who jumped into the race last summer after Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced he wouldn't seek a third term. But with precinct caucuses just three weeks away, and the GOP field still not set, Anderson said she felt there was too much uncertainty surrounding the contest.
"The focus of the Republican Party has really been exclusively on the race for governor. Nonetheless, a number of key players in the party have remained on the sidelines, waiting for Godot to show up. I can say it's been frustrating," she said.
Anderson wouldn't say how much money her campaign raised last year. But she said she was frustrated by Republicans holding back financial support until they know if former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman will run.
Coleman issued a statement later in the day, praising Anderson and saying that he'll decide soon whether to run for governor.
Anderson was third in a GOP straw poll last fall, coming in behind Marty Seifert and Tom Emmer. But even as she announced her departure from the governor's race, Anderson wouldn't endorse another candidate.
"My supporters are going to support who they want. I'm not asking them to support any one particular candidate," said Anderson. "I think it's pretty well known that I shared a lot of support with Tom Emmer. And I suspect he'll be the biggest beneficiary of this move."
The remaining GOP frontrunners were also quick to praise Anderson and her campaign switch. State Rep. Tom Emmer agreed that he's well positioned to pick up some of her supporters. But he said it won't be automatic.
"Pat has a very loyal group of supporters. And to a person, they would tell me, 'Look Tom, Pat is my pick, you are a very strong second,'" said Emmer. "I think now with Pat's decision to run for auditor, it's our job to become a very strong first."
Emmer isn't the only one courting Anderson supporters. State Rep. Marty Seifert says he's been on the phone all day, and he's already won a few converts.
"It's just like when Paul Kohls dropped out. Some of his supporters came to me. Some of them went to Tom Emmer. Some of them went elsewhere. Some of them remained undecided," said Seifert. "I think that process will continue with Pat Anderson. Some of her supporters will go to me. Some of her supporters will go to other candidates, and the process will cycle its way through. And we're going to bring some new people into the process as well."
More candidates could soon follow. University of Minnesota political science professor Larry Jacobs says the crowded field of Republican and DFL gubernatorial hopefuls will continue to thin in the next few weeks.
As for Anderson, Jacobs says her campaign for governor wasn't getting much traction.
"The other issue here is that the Democrats are looking at a very difficult November election. And I think the message is going out around the country that this might be a very good year for Republicans," said Jacobs.
"Pat Anderson may have just done the math on this, that the governor's race was going to be very difficult for her. The state auditor race was one that she could well emerge as the victor, especially if this turns out as a big year for Republicans."
Anderson served as state auditor before. She lost her bid for a second term in 2006 to DFLer Rebecca Otto, who announced her re-election campaign earlier this week.
There are also three other Republicans already running for auditor.