Candidate pool widens in race for Minn. governor

9:33 AM, Jun 24, 2013   |    comments
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MAPLE GROVE, Minn. - A new candidate is in the race for Minnesota governor.

Former Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers joins a growing field of Republicans who want Gov. Mark Dayton's job.

"I'm running to be governor not just for the sake that Mark Dayton has taken us in the wrong direction but because of what we're based on and what our country was built on and where we've gone away from," Zellers said at a news conference Sunday announcing his candidacy.

Zellers may not be the first to announce he'll challenge the governor in an election still 15 months away, but he could already be a frontrunner in a divided pool of Republican candidates.

Orono businessman Scott Honour and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson are in the race for sure, possibly along with several former and current state lawmakers who have yet to announce.

"What we're starting to see is a combination of both insiders, that is state legislators and some outsiders -- business people -- who are all trying to figure out if there is potential for them to define in a narrative in a message how they can take on Gov. Dayton," says political analyst David Schultz.

And Schultz says the winning narrative for Republicans will likely focus on traditional party messages -- like taxes, the economy and overreaching government.

While allowing daycare workers to vote to join a union, raising income taxes for some and tacking taxes onto internet purchases are all wins in the eyes of the governor. They could also be part of a winning strategy for Republicans.

"Clearly nobody is immune from being beat as we all know," says Schultz.

But defeating the incumbent governor may not be easy with his approval ratings above 50 percent.

KARE 11 asked Dayton's camp what the governor thinks about Zellers entering the race. The governor's campaign spokesperson said they expect GOP candidates to enter the race and look forward to what's ahead.

And these big campaigns really seem to be starting earlier and earlier. Part of the timing is because of fundraising with $7 to $10 million likely needed for this governor's race.

(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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