ST. PAUL, Minn. — Former Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers is ready to announce his 2014 plans, with signs pointing to a run for Minnesota governor.
Zellers scheduled a Sunday event in his home city of Maple Grove. But "Zellers for Governor" Internet domains were reserved Tuesday, and registration details tie directly to him. His notice of the weekend "special announcement" is topped by a snazzy logo with a flag jutting from the end of his name.
He would be seeking the GOP nod to challenge Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.
Zellers led the House for two years. But he slid from power when his GOP caucus lost its majority to Democrats in the 2012 election.
The 43-year-old North Dakota native has long been involved in Minnesota politics. He got his start as an aide to U.S. Sen. Rod Grams and later was the top communications aid for Minnesota House Republicans. Zellers stepped out on his own in 2003 when he won a legislative seat in a fast-growing suburban area west of Minneapolis. He climbed the GOP ranks to become minority leader in 2009, which positioned him to be speaker when Republicans won the chamber.
Zellers didn't immediately respond to a request for further comment on Thursday.
Other announced GOP candidates are businessman Scott Honour and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson. State Sens. Dave Thompson of Lakeville and David Hann, the minority caucus leader from Eden Prairie, have said they are nearing decisions as well.
State Rep. Matt Dean, who was second-in-command to Zellers as House majority leader, said Thursday he hasn't ruled out his own run for governor.
As a former speaker, Zellers likely enjoys wider name recognition than his rivals, can rely on established contacts with big party donors and is familiar with being in a media glare that especially accompanies a governor's race.
But there are liabilities attached to things that happened on his watch. He helped put two constitutional amendments on the ballot that were defeated. He was a key participant — along with Dayton — in the high-level budget breakdown that sent the Minnesota government into a nearly three-week shutdown. And a shaky Minnesota Vikings stadium financing plan was ushered through during his leadership tenure — he said he wouldn't vote for it but wanted to see the measure pass.
A Star Tribune poll published this week showed the incumbent Dayton with a 57 percent approval rating. The phone survey of 800 people has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points