DFL looks ahead to 2010 governor's race
Minnesota Democrats are hungry, but their main course is more than three years away. "I think the state is hungry for leadership," Sen. Tom Bakk said Monday in discussing why he is considering running for governor. Ramsey County Attorney Susan Ga...
Minnesota Democrats are hungry, but their main course is more than three years away.
"I think the state is hungry for leadership," Sen. Tom Bakk said Monday in discussing why he is considering running for governor.
Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner said she expected complaints about beginning her run for the governor's job a few months ago, but discovered Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party voters are eager to put one of their own in office.
"I think that DFLers are hungry to win this race," said Gaertner, whose organization is far ahead of any potential candidate. "They know it will take a lot of work, and they can see I am willing to put in that effort, so that is seen as a positive thing."
With recent gains in Minnesota and nationwide, Democrats are optimistic that they will be able to take over the governor's office for the first time since Rudy Perpich left at the beginning of 1991. Never has so much attention been paid to the governor's race so early.
"It's an entirely predictable thing to havehappen right now because we are kind of moving into a period where Republicans are going to lose," DFL observer Wy Spano said. "I think that gets everybody cranked up, at least on the DFL side."
Gaertner and Bakk may be just two in a crowded race in 2010. Perhaps a half-dozen other Democratic names are being floated for the race, including Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.
"I think we've fallen behind, and it's more than bridges falling down," Bakk said in his Monday interview. "Our roads are falling apart and what also worries me are the things people can't see. Our unemployment rates in June and again in September were both higher than the national average for the first time in 30 years."
Bakk said he will decide by early- or mid-summer next year whether to run.
"I'm going to put some kind of kitchen table discussion together when I'm down in St. Paul with people who are outside the state Capitol and see what people think," Bakk said.
Gaertner already has made her decision to run and has started visiting Democrats statewide in places such as Duluth and Willmar.
The interest is so high because Democrats are getting more and more upset with Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty. DFLers complain about his unwillingness to raise taxes to support transportation, health care and education.
Pawlenty says he will serve out his second four-year term, but he could be picked as a Republican vice presidential candidate.
Spano said that if Pawlenty does not run for vice president, and since no Minnesota governor has served three terms, Pawlenty would have a hard time winning because "it is kind of un-Minnesotan." If Pawlenty seeks and loses the vice presidency, it would be hard for him to return to Minnesota voters seeking a third term as his second job choice, Spano added.
Spano said Democrats' frustration with Pawlenty is compounded because their 2006 candidate, Mike Hatch, could have been governor except for a strong Independence Party candidate in Peter Hutchinson and some Hatch gaffes as the campaign ended.
Gaertner said she decided to run soon after Hatch lost to Pawlenty a year ago. She made her intention public because she also was being courted for the U.S. Senate and wanted to make sure people knew she was not interested in that race.
For several months, Bakk has been pondering the governor's office.
Bakk said he knows a run for governor would be a challenge for a rural legislator.
"I just don't know the answer as to whether I can get the nomination or not," Bakk said. "About 40 percent of the delegates are considered labor delegates, and I'm pretty strong in that area. It's difficult for somebody rural to get elected, but it's also tough for a big city mayor to be elected. We both get kind of type-cast."
He ran for Senate majority leader after last year's election, but lost to Sen. Larry Pogemiller of Minneapolis. He has remained ready to step in if Pogemiller falters.
Bakk, chairman of the Senate Taxes Committee, grew up in Cook. He was elected to the House in 1994 and after four terms there, he joined the Senate in 2003. His district stretches from Duluth to the north and northeast along Lake Superior.
For 31 years, Bakk has been a labor representative, working at United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners Local 606 in Virginia.
LEE BLOOMQUIST can be reached weekdays at (800) 368-2506, (218) 744-2354 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.DON DAVIS works for Forum Communications, which owns the Duluth News Tribune.