Four years from now, the governor’s seat will be up for grabs as Gov. Mark Dayton has said he won’t run again. The following list contains potential contenders that some Republicans believe may want a shot as Minnesota’s next chief executive.
U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen: Though it’s unclear if Paulsen, who represents Minnesota’s Third Congressional District, would like to run for governor, the three-term congressman would have strong name recognition if he were to declare his candidacy. He may have a problem convincing more right-leaning activists within the party that he has the conservative bonafides to be endorsed. He would also need to cement support from outstate Minnesota as he currently represents a large swath of Hennepin County.
Mike McFadden: Though he has never won elective office before, the Sunfish Lake investment banker and political rookie put together a formidable campaign operation in his unsuccessful bid to beat U.S. Sen. Al Franken. McFadden also hasn’t signaled whether he would try his hand in politics once more, but, like Paulsen, he would enter the race with strong name recognition. He would also be tinged with the distinction that he lost to Franken earlier this month by more than 10 points. Republican delegates would also need to be convinced that he isn’t opportunistic by seeking yet another office solely to win something.
Kurt Daudt: The newly elected speaker of the House was instrumental in helping Republicans regain the majority in the lower legislative chamber. In his new role, Daudt will have more influence and a higher profile. Republican lawmakers will be eager to show they can pass bills and work with DFL legislators. Any actions by Daudt that show too much compromise may turn off conservative delegates during the endorsement convention. Daudt, though, could prove to be a strong fundraiser and likely would have the loyalty of lawmakers he helped get elected.
Julie Rosen: First elected to the Minnesota Senate in 2002 to represent Fairmont, the southern Minnesota Republican would have one of the longest lists of legislative accomplishments among state lawmakers who may run for governor. She has often been a moderate voice, taking the lead on the bill that authorized state funding for the new Vikings stadium. Her rural roots and conservative stances on issues Republicans care about could be enough to garner enough delegate support to win her party’s nomination. Elevating a woman to the top of the Republican ticket could also give Minnesota its first female governor.
Michelle Benson: Known for her expertise on health care, Benson has emerged as a leading conservative voice on MNsure. First elected in 2010, Benson would need to boost her legislative accomplishments and profile to be a viable candidate for statewide office. Benson would also need to establish robust donor relations and work on improving her name identification outside of her district.
Karin Housley: The least senior of lawmakers on this list, Housley has already run as a lieutenant governor candidate in the Republican primary. She was Scott Honour’s running mate, which allowed her to travel the state as Honour sought his party’s nomination for the general election. Elected in 2012, her legislative accomplishments are scant compared to other lawmakers.
Keith Downey: The current GOP Party chairman has helped the organization recover from near financial ruin after Tony Sutton, a former party chairman, resigned in 2011 and left the party with $2 million in debt. Downey has largely orchestrated the turnaround, but he also presided during the party’s dismal showing in statewide races. Historically, the leap from party chairman to elected office hasn’t happened, partly because it is a very partisan post. Downey, however, has also served as a state lawmaker and could point to his record as reasons for why he would be a well-rounded gubernatorial candidate.