St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said Tuesday he is running for governor of Minnesota in 2018, as he tries to leverage his leadership of the state’s second-largest city into a statewide political bid.
“I think we’ve made a huge difference in every corner of the city,” Coleman told the Star Tribune. “Progress for kids, jobs for families, we had some fun doing things like building CHS Field, we did important work with things like the Dorothy Day Center project. I think the conversation across Minnesota is the same as what we’ve been working on in St. Paul for 11 years.”
Coleman, 55, announced earlier in December that he would not run for a fourth term as mayor next year. He was first elected to lead Minnesota’s second largest city in 2005. Coleman considered but decided against a gubernatorial bid in 2010 and for months had been signaling an interest in the 2018 race.
That included appearances around the state during the recent campaign season, which Coleman nodded to in a printed statement that accompanied the announcement of his plans.
“I have already spoken to residents from towns across Minnesota,” Coleman said. “Our communities share many of the same goals and have the same hope for vibrant economies and a strong future for our children.”
Coleman is the second DFLer to join the governor’s race after his fellow St. Paul resident, state Rep. Erin Murphy. Gov. Mark Dayton is not running again, which he reaffirmed on Tuesday at a news conference. No Republicans have formally announced a campaign.
Coleman said he would seek the DFL endorsement to run but was not definitive on whether he’d bow out of the race if another candidate gets the endorsement.
While the field is still taking shape, there’s likely to be an intense contest in both political parties. In addition to Coleman and Murphy, other likely or possible DFL candidates are Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, Attorney General Lori Swanson, State Auditor Rebecca Otto and others. Republican contenders include House Speaker Kurt Daudt, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, businessman Mike McFadden and several other state House and Senate members.
Murphy refrained from criticism of her new DFL rival in a statement welcoming him to the race. “Chris and I worked on legislative issues impacting St. Paul over the years and I’ve appreciated his work highlighting the city’s successes,” Murphy said.
The Minnesota Jobs Coalition, a private political committee that supports Republicans, criticized Coleman’s tenure in St. Paul — most notably a $14 million gap as city leaders try to finalize their 2017 budget.
“As Coleman crisscrosses the state to chase his political ambitions, it’s too bad St. Paul residents are left facing the reality of his massive budget mess,” said Jobs Coalition executive director John Rouleau.
Coleman defended his leadership of the city’s finances, noting that St. Paul still enjoys the highest bond rating and attributed the current budget problems to declining state aid dollars.
“We have focused on fiscal stability in the city, but we also have a basic obligation to put police officers and firefighters on the street and to maintain other basic services,” Coleman said. “We’ve done that despite a significant pullback from the state of Minnesota.”