ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner moved Monday to cut his ties to the Himle-Horner public relations firm he co-founded in 1989. He announced he's selling his remaining shares back to the company, something he originally planned do after the election.
"Unbundling a 21-year relationship with my partner John Himle takes some time," Horner told KARE Monday, "It's a 21-year relationship that a very good relationship, but ended on a very positive note."
Horner said he began the process of pulling away from the public relations and crisis management firm in 2008, when he sold half of his interest to Himle-Horner's president, Todd Rapp. He said, apart from seeking office, he wanted to free up time for community service.
He said it had nothing to do with pressure from the Republican Party of Minnesota and fellow Independence Party candidate Rob Hahn to divulge his full list of current and past clients. But Hahn, who shared the stage with Horner and two other candidates at a renewable energy forum at the History Center of Minnesota Monday, was skeptical.
"Why didn't he do it last January when he filed paperwork to start an exploratory committee?" Hahn asked, "And then he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune a couple weeks ago he was going to do it if he was elected governor. And now he's doing it, and claiming it's not in response to the outcry? Come on!"
"Tom has formed a lot of relationships with a lot of companies. We don't know them all, because he's refused my request and the requests of others to reveal his client list."
Horner, the I.P. endorsed candidate, is a lifelong Republican who served as an aid to former Republican U.S. Senator David Durenberger. He has maintained that, if elected governor, he would freely divulge conflicts with past clients as issues arise.
His "day job" created a flurry of posts on Twitter and various blogs the day union nurses went on strike June 10th, when it came to light Horner had been hired by hospitals to assist in their messaging to the news media.
"I've represented the hospitals in different combinations for the last 25 years," Horner explained, "I don't get involved in contract talks. I'm part of the team that helps the community understand what's at stake."
With the sale of his stake in Himle-Horner, Horner technically has no current clients. He said voters are more interested in learning about his stance on the issues, and ideas for solving the impending state budget crisis in 2012-2013.
"Minnesotans now know all of my current clients. They know exactly what I'm doing. More importantly, Minnesotans know with great specificity my position on issues."
He suggested his opponents and their campaigns, by insisting a list of public relations clients, are trying to hold him to a higher level of scrutiny than other candidates. And, Horner asserted, it's the type of scenario that discourages people with private business backgrounds from seeking public office.
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