Governor hopefuls get 2018 fundraising going

The announced candidates for Minnesota governor are sprinting from the fundraising gate, according to data made public Wednesday.

New campaign spending reports covering money raised and spent in 2016 show a few DFLers getting headstarts in their 2018 campaigns for an open governor's seat. Incumbent Gov. Mark Dayton isn't running again.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman leads the pack with more than $190,000. DFL Representative Erin Murphy has about $120,000 in reserve and State Auditor Rebecca Otto has $20,000, which was transferred from her auditor committee.

The fields in both the DFL and Republican parties are expected to grow.

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Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, and state Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, both said to be mulling campaigns for governor, still have active campaign accounts from ill-fated 2010 bids. Bakk's has a $78,000 balance. Thissen said his is down to a few hundred dollars, although a report wasn't immediately available.

On the Republican side, 2014 nominee Jeff Johnson has just shy of $30,000 in unspent funds. The Hennepin County commissioner hasn't ruled out another run and spent money in October on a survey. Former House Speaker Kurt Zellers, who has given little indication he would run again, took in two $4,000 checks in late December but otherwise had no activity in his account.

Early fundraising can be important in signalling viability. Also, the candidates can return to the same donors this year and next without affecting a contribution cap. The giving cycle reset on Jan. 1.

From the beginning of the year through next year's election, the maximum donation to gubernatorial candidates for the coming race is $4,000 per person.