Republican Marty Seifert, a former House minority leader, jumped into the race for governor on Thursday, adding a prominent outstate name to the already crowded field of Republicans vying to unseat DFL Gov. Mark Dayton next year.

The relatively late entry into the contest is a signal that Seifert, a veteran political strategist and tactician, believes the candidates who have been running for months have yet to lock down Republicans’ support.

“I think it’s a wide-open race,” said Seifert, who ran for the Republican gubernatorial endorsement in 2010 but lost to Tom Emmer, who was defeated in the general election by Dayton.

This time, Seifert said, he would work hard to win the endorsement from delegates at the party’s 2014 convention but did not rule out a primary. Other GOP candidates are making the same calculation. Businessman Scott Honour and Rep. Kurt Zellers have said they will go to a primary if necessary. Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson and Sen. Dave Thompson have said they will abide by the endorsement.

Seifert said his agenda as governor would be cutting taxes, halting construction of the Southwest light-rail line and shutting down the Metropolitan Council, along with the state Departments of Health, Corrections, and Labor and Industry.

“Once before former Representative Marty Seifert tried to convince the right-wing activists in the Republican Party that he would carry their conservative torch through a gubernatorial election,” DFL Chair Ken Martin said. Martin claimed the lesson of the 2013 elections was that Republicans should offer up someone who can work with DFLers and Republicans. “It will be interesting to see if Republican activists got that memo.”

Seifert appears to be hitting similar notes.

At his announcement Thursday, Seifert said: “A message to the Republican Party: You cannot win in the state of Minnesota unless you have non-Republicans vote for you. That is the simple truth, and at some point we need to understand that we need to ask every Minnesotan to join our cause.”

When Seifert ran three years ago, Emmer was seen as the truer conservative by Republican activists but could not pull off a statewide win. Emmer now is running for the Sixth Congressional District seat being vacated by U.S. House Rep. Michele Bachmann.

State Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, supported Emmer in 2010 but now is backing Seifert.

He said that, in retrospect, Seifert may have been able to beat Dayton then and he believes he can do it next year.


Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Twitter: @rachelsb