A field of gubernatorial candidates that at one time numbered nearly two dozen has been winnowed to five as the campaign season begins in earnest.
Even before the state’s general election on November 2, a primary election will be held on August 10 to determine who will be the DFL candidate for governor. The primary will feature three familiar names: former Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher, who secured the DFL endorsement in April; former U.S. Senator Mark Dayton; and former State Representative Matt Entenza. The need for a primary is not a surprise, as both Dayton and Entenza announced their intention not to vie for the DFL endorsement early on. A recent poll from Minnesota Public Radio and the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs shows Dayton holding a sizable 10-point lead over Kelliher (38%–28%), with Entenza polling at 6%. However, the poll also reports that nearly 28% of the likely DFL voters are undecided, ensuring plenty of vigorous campaigning throughout the summer.
Both Tom Horner (Independence Party) and Tom Emmer (Republican Party) resoundingly won endorsements at their respective parties’ conventions and will await the winner of a three-way race in the DFL primary.
No matter the names on the ballot after August 10, Minnesota voters will be presented with three distinct choices.
Regardless of who emerges from the DFL primary, that candidate will most likely run on a platform of renewed investment in Minnesota’s health care and education systems, as well as a commitment to clean energy and a more progressive tax system. Tom Emmer will focus his campaign on the opposite side of the spectrum, pledging to decrease the size of state government and shrink tax burdens on families and businesses in order to stimulate economic growth. Staking out the middle ground will be Horner, a former member of the Republican Party who believes that government reforms are necessary but that simply cutting spending and programs is not the answer. Traditionally, third-party candidates have drawn more votes away from the DFL, but this year many observers are curious to see if Horner’s background lures moderate Republican support away from Emmer.
The winner of the November 2 election will have earned the right to begin tackling the state’s impending budget deficit, which projections currently have set between $5 and $6 billion.