Running mating season, a Range view

I had intended to wait until all three major DFL candidates for governor picked their running mates, but now that Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Mark Dayton have made their selections I already see a fascinating dynamic forming. Matt Entenza is due to add fuel to the fire on Thursday when he announces his running mate.

Last Friday, Anderson Kelliher selected John Gunyou, the Minnetonka city manager and former GOP Finance Commissioner under Gov. Arne Carlson. This is bold play for fiscal moderates with an eye on the general election. GOP prattling that it was a desperate primary move is, itself, a desperate concession that this helps MAK in the general and reframes her candidacy. Gunyou was endorsed without incident by the DFL central committee this past weekend. On the down side, an all-metro ticket remains unappealing for “traditional” greater Minnesota primary voters, particularly here on the Iron Range where the Steelworkers already shook things up by endorsing Dayton recently. AFSCME Council 5, a strong force in local organizations all over the state, also endorsed Dayton a long time ago. (CLARIFICATION: AFSCME Council 65 endorsed Anderson Kelliher. They represent many northern Minnesota worksites). Further, Gunyou’s going to barnstorm the state and talk about responsible budgeting? If that was something people wanted to hear we’d have a responsible budget right now. Nevertheless, I’m calling the pick a net positive for Kelliher.

I must admit the Gunyou pick spurred two very strong, opposing emotions in me. First, the technocratic, modern, pragmatic liberal hipster in me was all like, “Right on, MAK!” Nab the middle, shore up support in the areas where DFL candidates have been weak in the past. At the same time, the part of me that grew up campaigning in Iron Range union halls, bars and pancake feeds slammed down my cup of mead, shook my sabre at the sky and cursed the Gods of War. “Minnetonka!” I screamed. “Of all places, must he be from Minnetonka, the jackals’ den!?” I suspect others also felt this way and this is probably due more to the gradual evolution of the Democratic political coalition which started in 2004 and is not yet complete. I’ll have more on this when I have the time, but last month’s state DFL convention probably illustrated the hard lurches going on better than anything else. In short, the cool young people did not win this time.

About that Dayton fellow. Today Dayton selected Duluth State Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon to be his running mate. This provides regional balance, gender balance and additional 8th CD bonafieds. Prettner Solon was originally with Tom Bakk, then went to R.T. Rybak and going with Dayton now throws a wrench in Anderson Kelliher’s hopes to quickly consolidate Rybak’s supporters behind her. On the down side, Prettner Solon does a lot to get Duluth votes but less to get Range votes. While it’s not unthinkable for a Range lawmaker to endorse Dayton, I still see most of them lining up with Margaret, many of them — including Tony Sertich, Tom Anzelc, Tom Saxhaug and Tom Rukavina — already doing so publicly. But I had previously believed that a Duluth or Range running mate would make Dayton the frontrunner in the Eighth and this selection more or less confirms that as the current political reality.

Dayton leads in the first MPR statewide poll (a vague lead), enjoys name recognition and seems to be consolidating 8th CD and some rural support. Anderson Kelliher is making a play for Hennepin County in general and will strongly contest her native southern Minnesota farmland (which could be quite a battlefield, with all three DFL candidates having roots there). What play does St. Paul’s Matt Entenza have? He’s the only one with TV ads — pretty good ones, actually, even if he hasn’t caught fire with the voters yet. Does he try to go out to the countryside? My guess is no. He’d have to go pretty hardcore rural for it to make any difference. I mean, we’re talking Constable Jeebus “Scruffy” Backwater (DFL-Togo). I don’t see it. So…

Here’s a thought. Let us suppose DFL primaries are won in the 4th, (St. Paul and suburbs) 5th (Minneapolis and suburbs) and 8th (Iron Range/Duluth) CDs and the candidates more or less split up the rest (my guess). If Dayton wins the 8th, Anderson Kelliher the 5th, wouldn’t Entenza’s best chance be too drive them out of the 4th with an all-St. Paul ticket? A Susan Gaertner or someone from South St. Paul? Just a thought. We’ll see if I’m right.

And the beat goes on.

UPDATE: I am way off, it appears, on Entenza’s options. MNPublius is reporting that outgoing Fox9 anchor Robyne Robinson is under consideration. Did not see that coming. We’ll see how good that rumor is; probably a good deal better than my idle speculation.

UPDATE 2: Oh, snap, I screwed up something else. While the larger AFSCME Council 5 endorsed Dayton, the northern AFSCME Council 65, whose office I drive by every day, endorsed Anderson Kelliher. This changes the context of what I wrote. In essence, Dayton holds an advantage on the Range because of name recognition and the Steelworkers endorsement. He does now, but Anderson Kelliher will be a factor here and who knows? Because life is funny.


  1. “Kelliher-Gunyou” vs. “Dayton-Prettner Solon” vs. “Entenza-Robinson”.

    Seems like the DFL tickets have more syllables than usual this year.

  2. That was probably the most undersold argument for the Bakk candidacy. Monosyllabic candidates save time on typing.

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