Hey, Hamlet: It’s time to decide.
It’s that time during the election cycle when a bunch of potential candidates are weighing whether their party has the headwinds or tailwinds; whether they can raise money; and whether they have the fire in the belly — to endure endless bean feeds, calls to potential delegates and nosy questions from people like me — to make a run.
The most consequential: former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is now a Washington lobbyist. When he is asked about returning to Minnesota for a run, the two-term Republican governor gives the same answer: that he’s retired from public life. But GOP sources say we’re beyond idle speculation, that all the buzz is real, and he’s considering it, watching to see if the current field is locking down financial and political support.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt, who helped propel Republicans into the majority in 2014 and then strengthened their hold in 2016, may be waiting to tie up loose ends in the Legislature’s legal fight with Gov. Mark Dayton before he jumps in the governor’s race.
But here’s a case to wait until after the next legislative session, laid out to me by a GOP source: If Daudt waits, he can remain House speaker, whereas if he gets in now, his colleagues may require him to relinquish his gavel. As speaker, he can raise more money and command more press attention through the legislative session next spring. Of course, this means he would be skipping the Republican convention and going straight to a primary.
Speaking of skipping the party convention, Attorney General Lori Swanson is presumed to be mulling this strategy as she nears an announcement on a run for governor. If she goes straight to a primary, this would set up a potentially crowded DFL field.
To wit: State Rep. Erin Murphy was endorsed by the nurses union last week and has early momentum in the chase for delegates who will endorse at the party convention in June. U.S. Rep. Tim Walz earned the endorsement of former Vice President Walter Mondale last week, and he is presumed to be ready for a primary even if he does not win the party endorsement.
Potential candidates down the ballot are also making decisions. I asked former Rep. Joe Radinovich if he’s running for state auditor, after hearing that he might: “Haven’t made any decisions about 2018 yet. Will likely be doing so in November.” He’s now running Jacob Frey’s mayoral campaign and helped re-elect U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan last year.
Sen. Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, on a run for state auditor: “I’m seriously considering it.”