Thursday, November 21, 2013

The latest entrant in the race

It's been assumed for some time that there will be at least one or two more candidates to vie for the GOP nomination for Minnesota governor in 2014. One stepped forward Thursday.

In the kickoff to a second campaign for Minnesota governor, Republican Marty Seifert presented himself Thursday as a candidate who is detached from government yet knows his way around it.

That inside-outside message was on display as Seifert declared his candidacy in a three-stop tour. It's his effort to carve a path through a Republican field that has two defined camps: sitting lawmakers looking to move up and pure outsiders promising to inject a fresh voice and ideas.

"I have a mixture of public-sector and private-sector experience, not all one and not all the other," Seifert said at a Capitol news conference. "I understand the budget, but more importantly I understand the budget of the average working-class Minnesotan."

The former House minority leader has been out of elective office since falling short of his party's nod for governor in 2010. He joins a handful of GOP candidates vying to take on Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton next year. Republicans will meet at their state convention in May to consider endorsing a candidate. But an August primary challenge is almost certain. Seifert didn't commit to ending his campaign if someone else is endorsed.

I have a feeling Seifert later regretted not going to a primary in 2010 with GOP endorsed candidate Tom Emmer. There are certain factions of the MN Republican party (not surprisingly, most were Seifert supporters) that felt Seifert would have been a more viable candidate in a general election than Emmer, who ended up losing the gubernatorial race to Mark Dayton by less than 1%. But that is empty speculation at best.

Despite not being officially in the race last month, Seifert finished third in a gubernatorial straw poll among State Central Committee delegates. Some suggested that Seifert had already been rallying support for another run for governor up to that point but, again, I took that as pure conjecture. However, if indeed he was not fully committed to a 2014 gubernatorial run, the straw poll results no doubt played a significant role in swaying Seifert's decision.

The disadvantage Seifert will have is that he is such a late entrant into the race. The other four main candidates consisting of Scott Honour, Jeff Johnson, Kurt Zellers and Dave Thompson (Rob Farnsworth is a non-factor, IMO) all declared within two months of each other (late April to late June time frame). As such, all have secured staff as well as volunteers, which means highly qualified campaign workers are at a premium by now.

The hope of many within the MN GOP was that Seifert would look to challenge long-time Congressman Collin Peterson in Congressional District 7. But despite the district being rated R+6 per the Cook Partisan Voting Index, Peterson, a moderate-to-conservative Democrat, has been in office since 1991 and only once in the past six elections cycles has he failed to garner less than 65% of the vote. I have a feeling that once Peterson retires (there was heavy speculation earlier this year that he wouldn't run in 2014) there will be a bumper crop of Republicans to vie for that Congressional seat. Short of Seifert actually being elected governor in 2014, I believe he would be an instant front runner if he chose to run in CD7 once Peterson hangs it up.

For now, Seifert is focused on being the GOP nominee for MN governor next year. And as luck would have it, I will be discussing that very thing with him on my radio program this Sunday right at 1:00 PM Central Time. Definitely tune in if you can!


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