State Sen. Dave Thompson launched his campaign for governor Wednesday, calling for lower taxes, smaller government and sweeping changes to labor law and the way education in funded in Minnesota.

“I’m doing this because I believe in the state of Minnesota and I believe in Minnesotans,” said Thompson, who made his announcement in the Capitol, where he has served for the past three years, flanked by family and supporters.

“Folks, you deserve better. You don’t deserve a government that’s trying to figure out who they can hit hardest with the taxes; make enemies out of people who are successful, or for that matter, enemies out of people that happen to engage in something legal like smoking,” Thompson said, taking a swipe at the $2.1 billion package of tax increases that just passed the DFL-led Legislature. “I believe in the individual…As governor, my goal will be to get out of your way.”

Thompson, a former conservative talk radio host from Lakeville, is the fourth Republican to challenge Gov. Mark Dayton. He joins former House Speaker Kurt Zellers, businessman Scott Honour and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson in the GOP field. Like Thompson, all the current GOP hopefuls hail from Twin Cities suburbs.

He said he would abide by the GOP endorsement process and bow out if he is not the party's choice. Both Zellers and Honour have hinted they might not end their runs if they are not endorsed.

If elected, Thompson said, he would push to allow parents to use public money – possibly tuition tax credits -- to send their children to private schools.

“I’m not here to dismantle the schools that are functioning well,” he said. “I’m here to address a segment of the population that is not being well educated by the public schools.”

Thompson enraged state labor unions last session by pushing legislation that would have made union membership and dues optional in union shops. If elected, he said he would continue his push to add Minnesota to the ranks of so-called “Right to Work” states.

He was part of the wave of Republican lawmakers swept into the Legislature, and into a new GOP majority, in 2010. He has been an outspoken, highly quotable, voice for conservative causes, and liberal groups like the Alliance for Minnesota were quick to respond to his run.

"Extremist Dave Thompson wants to bring the Wisconsin-style anti-worker war on the middle class to Minnesota," the group's executive director, Carrie Lucking, said in a press release.  "Wisconsin has gone from best to worst in job creation and economic growth; A Governor Thompson would drive Minnesota off the same cliff."

Thompson’s years on the air will be a trove for opposition researchers to dig through in search for embarrassing sound bites, but Thompson said he isn’t worried.

“The nice thing about never lying is you don’t have to have a good memory,” he joked when asked whether he’d said anything on-air that might haunt him during the campaign. “The nice thing for me is that I really am what I am, and I really said the same things on talk radio that I say now. There’s a reason for that. I believe it.”

After the announcement, Thompson headed out for a campaign swing through Duluth, Rochester and Lakeville.


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