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Jeffers says she's tougher than Pawlenty

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Sue Jeffers
Sue Jeffers, who owns Stub and Herbs bar in Minneapolis, is challenging Gov. Tim Pawlenty for the Republican Party endorsement.
MPR Photo/Laura McCallum

Jeffers worked on Tim Pawlenty's first campaign for governor four years ago. The owner of the Stub and Herbs bar in Minneapolis now thinks she'd be a better governor than Pawlenty.

"I think Tim Pawlenty is ripe for the picking," Jeffers says. "And I think once you throw in this stadium bill, if he signs for the Twins stadium, I think the voters are so irritated that they will throw him out of office."

Gov. Pawlenty
Gov. Tim Pawlenty, speaking Wednesday at a Boys and Girls Club event. He dismisses criticism from Republican challenger Sue Jeffers that he is not conservative enough.
MPR Photo/Laura McCallum

Jeffers has never run for office before, but has often been in the news as a leader in the fight against the Hennepin County smoking ban. Jeffers says Pawlenty signed a no-new-taxes pledge, but he hasn't kept his promise.

"Tim Pawlenty is a very nice man. He is not a fiscal conservative," Jeffers claims. "A fiscal conservative doesn't raise $559 million in fees last year, doesn't put up almost a billion-dollar bonding bill this year, and I think the voters know better than that."

Jeffers wants to challenge Pawlenty for the GOP endorsement at the party's state convention in June. But party officials say Jeffers identifies herself as a Libertarian, and the party's convention is reserved for Republicans only. 

Party spokesman Mark Drake says Jeffers would make a mockery of the GOP endorsement process.

"I think this whole thing is a publicity stunt, where she would attempt to use our delegates as campaign props," says Drake.

We elected Tim Pawlenty to vote against publicly-funded stadiums. Do you think he has the balls to veto that? I don't think so.

Jeffers is vague about her party affiliation. She says she was a lifelong Republican, but believes the party has strayed from its conservative principles. She hasn't accepted the Libertarian endorsement, and says she's heard from plenty of Republican delegates who think she should be allowed to seek the GOP endorsement. 

One of them is Jeffers supporter Dan McGrath of Minneapolis.

"What's the harm in having her compete with Pawlenty? If he's such a great Republican and she's just some outside rabble-rouser, then what's the harm?," asks McGrath. "The endorsement would still go to Pawlenty and things would still go on as normal."

For his part, Gov. Pawlenty says he doesn't take the GOP endorsement for granted. He says Jeffers is free to run for governor, but he doesn't think Jeffers can make the case that he's not a fiscal conservative.

"For most Minnesotans, if somebody were to suggest to them that Pawlenty's not sufficiently conservative to be a Republican, I think that would be a very bizarre conclusion," says Pawlenty.

Pawlenty says he led the state from a $4.5 billion deficit to a surplus without raising state taxes.   Pawlenty has taken his lumps from Democrats, who've accused him of pandering to far-right special interest groups on issues from abortion to taxes. 

Pawlenty has also come under fire from conservative groups like the Taxpayers League of Minnesota. The League criticized Pawlenty for proposing a state-operated casino and a 75-cent-a-pack cigarette charge. 

Jeffers echoes the league's criticism. In her typically brash style, Jeffers also slams Pawlenty for supporting a new Twins ballpark proposal.

"We elected Tim Pawlenty to vote against publicly-funded stadiums. Do you think he has the balls to veto that? I don't think so," she says.

Jeffers says she's been invited to address four Republican congressional district conventions, and she's still hoping to be part of the state convention. 

Jeffers says she hasn't ruled out challenging Pawlenty in a primary, and says her campaign will appeal to disgruntled voters across the political spectrum.