Former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman is swearing off a 2014 run for office but that does not mean Minnesotans will not see him around.
Coleman, who said this week that he would not run against DFL Gov. Mark Dayton next year, plans to stay involved in the state's politics through work the Minnesota Action Network, a branch of his national American Action Network. The American Action Network is a prominent and well-funded "center right" organization that, with its affiliates, has spent millions in recent years.
Although he gave the possibility of a gubernatorial run "serious thought," Coleman decided that he could not ramp up the Minnesota Action Network while considering a candidacy, he told the Star Tribune.
“I couldn't do both," he said. If he was a potential candidate, he acknowledged, the group would be perceived as a vehicle for his personal political ambitions.
The Minnesota group, like its national affiliate, will be involved in conservative outreach, potentially reframing the Republican debate.
"We have to be reaching out rather than narrowing, the immigration debate is a good example," he said. “We are a party with a diminishing base – older white voters."
Coleman, who tweeted on Friday that "purity police (are) killing the party," said that so-called litmus tests are not working for Republicans.
"We've got to be talking about people that are important to them. Their jobs, their kids’ education and not just talking about the constitution," the former U.S. Senator said. "I want to be part of those efforts."
His efforts come at a time when the Minnesota Republican Party is "weakened by debt," he said.
(Republican party chair Pat Shortridge, who stepped in a little over a year ago when the former chairman suddenly stepped down, did not disagree Coleman's assessment. "It keeps getting better than it was…but, as we all know, it is not nearly as good as it needs to be," he said. At of the start of last month, the party was carrying about $1.5 million in state and federal debt, down from a high of more than $2 million before Shortridge took office.)
Coleman said with a weakened party, "center right" candidates and grassroots activists need another venue.
"The traditional vehicle for providing grassroots efforts for center-right candidates (has) been through a party but, in this day and age, there are efforts that go beyond parties," Coleman said. "I think there is an opportunity for a group like the Minnesota Action Network on the idea front -- to be a promoter of center-right ideas, limited government, pro-entrepreneur, pro-growth agendas that can be very very effective.…It goes beyond the domain of parties."
Coleman will also be on the local scene more often because his law firm, Hogan and Lovells, is opening up a branch in Minnesota next month. The office will be in Minneapolis, the former St. Paul mayor said noting that the city was not his choice.
He said that he will, at some point, pick favorites in next year's marquee Republican races, but wouldn't name names on Friday.
" I certainly received a lot of calls in the last day. But I’m not dropping any names," he said.