It's been a busy week in Minnesota's crowded race for governor.
Three days after Republican Norm Coleman announced he wouldn't join the race, Democrat Mark Dayton gathered with supporters at the Capitol to officially launch a campaign that he started a year ago.
Meanwhile, two more Independence Party candidates, who are both former Republicans, have announced they plan to run.
There are a dozen Democrats running for governor this year. And former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, who plans to run in a primary without the DFL endorsement, has been there from the start.
Dayton waited a full year after filing his campaign paperwork to hold a formal gathering to announce his candidacy. The event was part rally, part news conference, but Dayton cut off reporters after taking three questions.
During a 10-minute speech, Dayton said he would provide proven leadership as governor.
"It's time for a new governor to lead us in a new and better direction, to the greatness that Minnesotans deserve," said Dayton. "I will be that governor, who will devote all of my energies to serving the people of this great state and leading us toward a better Minnesota."
Recent polls show Dayton leading the DFL field, and he's picked up two key union endorsements. But Republicans were quick to dismiss Dayton as a flawed candidate running on a failed record.
Michael Brodkorb, deputy chairman of the state Republican Party, says it's only Dayton's personal wealth that makes him a credible candidate, and even that won't be enough to win.
There are seven Republicans in the race, and after lots of speculation, former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman said this week he would not add his name to the list. Brodkorb says the GOP field is now set, and he likes the party's chances.
"I think there's energy, there's enthusiasm on the Republican side. I think our message is winnable," said Brodkorb. "It's sellable to the Minnesota voter, and I think our candidates are going to be just fine."
Brodkorb is also downplaying the potential impact of a new Independence Party of Minnesota candidate. The growing IP field now includes Joe Repya of Eagan, a former GOP activist and retired Army lieutenant colonel who ran unsuccessfully for Republican Party chairman in 2007.
Repya says he's grown frustrated by Republicans and Democrats, and their inability to solve the state's financial problems.
"We need a leader that the people will trust and will bring people together for the good of Minnesota, not the for the good of some political ideology. And that's the problem we have today in Minnesota," said Repya.
Another former Republican activist is also getting ready to run for governor under the IP banner. Tom Horner, co-founder of the Twin Cities public relations firm Himle Horner, says he'll file paperwork later this week in an effort to at least explore whether he can win this fall.
Horner, a longtime political analyst for Minnesota Public Radio News, once served as chief of staff to former Republican Sen. Dave Durenberger. He says he wants to give voters a good alternative.
"I'll be able to show a 30-year record of involvement in Minnesota public policy and politics, a 30-year record of really building coalitions and bring people together around common sense solutions, and around solutions that really do reflect the interest and wishes of most Minnesotans," said Horner.
The Independence Party still has major-party status in Minnesota, even though it hasn't had an election victory since Gov. Jesse Ventura in 1998. All three major parties will begin the process of selecting candidates during precinct caucuses on Feb. 2.