Chatter: Governor Candidates Look At Rural Minnesota

Minnesota’s 2018 governor race so far focuses on rural Minnesota, where Republicans did so well in last November’s election.

A former Republican legislator, who remains involved in politics, said that Democrats could benefit from U.S. Rep. Tim Walz entering the race. The Mankato congressman is his party’s best chance to win a significant number of votes in rural Minnesota, the ex-lawmaker said.

Others agree with the assessment because Walz is the only Democratic greater Minnesota candidate thus far.

Republicans took control of the state Senate and maintained House control in the 2016 election, and Donald Trump did better than any GOP presidential candidate in years. That gave Republicans cause for optimism that one of their own could become governor, which they think would go well with a Republican-led Legislature.

Most serious potential Republican governor candidates live in the Twin Cities area, although Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson grew up in Detroit Lakes. Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Sanek is considered a Twin Cities guy, as is Republican Chairman Keith Downey. Potential candidate House Speaker Kurt Daudt lives in Crown, about 50 miles away from the Capitol building.

A couple of darkhorse greater Minnesota Republicans are running for governor.

Walz has won his rural, Republican-leaning southern Minnesota district, although just barely last November. His supporters, and some Republicans, say that bodes well for a statewide run.

In the meantime, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman has made trip after trip to greater Minnesota as he prepared for his run for the Democratic nomination. He at least has become well known among city officials.

On Sunday, Rep. Tina Liebling of Rochester entered the race.

Attorney General Lori Swanson, who has not said if she is running, also is raising her rural Minnesota presence, especially among Democratic leaders.

State Auditor Rebecca Otto recently issued a news release about her “listening tour” around the state.

“Otto has made it a priority to hear from all Minnesotans, not just those who agree with her ideologically,” the release said. “The 37 in-person listening sessions she has held so far include one in Waconia hosted by Republican Mayor Jim Sanborn, and another in Bemidji where the majority of attendees voted for Donald Trump.”

Rep. Erin Murphy of St. Paul has traveled the state for several years, first in her role as a Democratic House leader and now as a governor candidate.

Dems could face 2 openings

The University of Minnesota’s political trivia geek, Eric Ostermeier, discovered that Democrats never have had two U.S. House in the state in one election.

With Walz deciding to run for governor, that could happen next year, he reports. There is talk that U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, from the northeast, also could run for governor. And, as with the last few years, some think U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson from the west could retire.

Ostermeier, who writes the Smart Politics blog, said Republicans seldom have had two congressional openings at once, the last time in the post-Watergate election of 1974.

Not all insurance is MNsure

The state-run MNsure health insurance sales website has been in the news a lot, but not always accurately.

MNsure is a program that sells individual insurance policies to people who do not have employer-provided insurance. It also provides a sign-up for free Medical Assistance and subsidized MinnesotaCare, as well a selling some small-business policies.

However, MNsure does not have its own policies. It sells policies that insurance firms offer. Individual policies also are available by buying from insurance agents.

‘Democrat Socialist candidates’

Minnesota Republicans are getting serious, even a year and a half before the next election for governor.

An email from the state party called Democratic governor hopefuls Coleman, Otto, Walz and Murphy “four Democrat Socialist candidates.”

“First, they all endorsed and supported the most corrupt presidential candidate in history — Hillary Clinton,” the GOP said in the email. “Second, they will all cater to the Democrats’ leftist agenda and refuse to call out the radicalism and corruption of the Democrat Party.”

Dayton invites outdoors

Gov. Mark Dayton has asked an outdoors retail trade show to come to Minnesota.

“Minnesota is a great state for outdoor recreation, we cherish the public lands that foster that experience, and we would be a great destination for your event,” Dayton wrote in a letter to the group that hosts trade shows. “We would warmly welcome you to visit our fine state and see all that we have to offer.”

In trying to get trade shows in his state, Dayton wrote that Minnesota’s “water-based recreation is second to none” and listed statistics to show that the state includes many people who fish and hunt and has the highest per-capita number of boats.

Senator apology accepted

Sen. Kent Eken, D-Twin Valley, has accepted an apology offered by Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria.

Ingebrigtsen wrote a letter to The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in which he said Eken voted against a driver’s license bill because of immigrant issues, but Eken said he never said that. Ingebrigtsen since apologized.
“It is time to put partisan tactics aside and focus on the important work at hand in the Legislature,” Eken said. “I look forward to working together with Senator Ingebrigtsen, in a bipartisan way, for the benefit of Greater Minnesota.”