The state's Republican Party kicked off the first day of the general election campaign for governor Wednesday by announcing plans to air a TV ad attacking DFL nominee Mark Dayton.
Republican Party officials said they will spend more than $100,000 to air the ad, which will run on TV stations throughout the state starting Thursday.
The Republican Party made the announcement several hours before DFL party leaders gathered at the state Capitol to announce their party's nominee. DFL opponent Margaret Anderson Kelliher had declined to concede defeat Tuesday night, citing Dayton's narrow lead in the polls. Kelliher conceded Wednesday and vowed to support Dayton in his effort to become the state's first DFL governor in 20 years.
At a capitol rally Kelliher thanked supporters and urged them to redirect their efforts to help the campaign they had been working against.
"And now is the time for every single one of us to stand with him in November," Kelliher said. "We need to do this. We'll stand with Mark to make sure that our schools have the investment they need, that our kids have what they need in their classrooms."
Dayton had high praise for Kelliher and Matt Entenza whom he also defeated in the primary. He said all them share the same principles.
"What also binds us together is our shared vision for a better Minnesota and our certainty that only with DFL leadership will the people of our great state realize better futures for themselves, their children and their grandchildren," Dayton said.
Dayton referred to his general election opponents, Republican Tom Emmer and Tom Horner from the Independence Party as "decent men" but said they don't understand Minnesota.
On the Republican side, State Rep. Tom Emmer coasted to an easy victory in the primary race with 82.5 percent of the vote. Emmer faces Dayton and Independence Party candidate Tom Horner in the Nov. 2 general election.
The 30-second ad includes quotes from media sources criticizing Dayton, but does not mention Emmer.
"He was absolutely, positively one of the worst Senators in America and Mark Dayton agrees," a female narrator says.
The narrator closes by saying, "Mark Dayton, too risky for Minnesota."
Emmer's win was never in doubt, but polls have shown him trailing all three of the Democrats who were running, as he tries to extend Republicans' eight-year hold on the governor's office.
Emmer told MPR News that he's expecting an issue-driven race. The Republican nominee sounded confident that his message of smaller government and lower taxes will sell better than the DFL and Independence Party campaign themes.
"I think the key of this election is to get out and run on what we believe in," Emmer said. "It's not running against anybody else. It's running on the message that we have and I think it's getting a contrast of both of the opponents here, both of the other candidates."
HORNER LOOKS TO PLAY TO THE MIDDLE
Independence Party nominee Tom Horner said also he plans to run TV ads within the next two weeks, promoting a message he thinks will make him a centrist alternative.
Horner secured his party's nomination Tuesday with 64.2 percent of the vote.
"I think I'm going to win because I'm running against candidates who are from the right and the left," Horner said Wednesday at a state Capitol press conference.
Horner also said he will provide more specifics in the next two weeks about his plan to broaden the sales tax and lower the overall tax rate.
Horner also said that he's hopeful that as the campaign goes forward in the next two-and-a-half months that it will be a campaign filled with forums, discussions, and debates where the three candidates can layout their vision and can show Minnesotans their leadership style.
Carleton College Political Science Professor Steve Schier agrees that having extremely liberal and conservative Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates will leave many voters wondering what to do. But Schier said it's not at all clear they'll flock to Horner.
Schier said personality issues will be part of the campaign, but that he expects political issues will trump them.
And more than anything else, Schier said, the debate will be about taxes, given Dayton's tax-the-rich strategy for solving budget problems.
"Which is, to my research, the most ambitious tax proposal any statewide candidate in America has out there this year," Schier said. "I think Mark Dayton has made this his signature issue and so that will be the central issue of the campaign."
If the primary campaign is any indication, much of the general election campaign will be fought on Minnesotan's television screens.
Dayton spent $3.3 million of his own money on his primary victory. Emmer's fundraising has lagged slightly, but Emmer has a new campaign team that hopes to fix that problem.
Horner has said he needs to raise $2.5 million to be competitive. He's raised a small fraction of that amount so far. If he can't raise more, he runs the risk of being drowned out in the TV ad wars by his opponents.