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Continued: Race for governor's office: Marty Seifert draws on rural roots

  • Article by: PATRICK CONDON , Star Tribune
  • Last update: July 10, 2014 - 9:24 AM

Minnesota Republicans have not had a competitive gubernatorial primary in decades, so it’s tough to predict if Seifert’s strategy will pan out — particularly with what’s likely to be low turnout. But in the 2010 DFL gubernatorial primary, about 40 percent of the August voters hailed from the First, Seventh and Eighth districts, which contain only about a third of the state’s total population.

Seifert’s fundraising also reflects his outstate Minnesota tilt. Through the first quarter of 2014, he collected just 23 percent of in-state donations from Twin Cities residents, compared to 95 percent for Dayton, 93 percent for Honour, 90 percent for Zellers and 63 percent for Johnson.

Seifert country

Redwood Falls, about two hours southwest of the Twin Cities, is Seifert country. Seifert grew up on a family farm nearby and has lived most of his life 45 miles away in Marshall with his wife and two children. He represented the area for 14 years in a legislative career that ended in 2011.

On the day he toured RVI, Seifert stopped in for an interview at the Redwood Falls Gazette and a milkshake at the Dari King drive-in where he worked as a teenager. The Seifert family, along with about two dozen volunteers, marched in the city’s sesquicentennial parade.

“Had Marty been our candidate four years ago, I believe he’d be governor today,” said Leonard Runck, the Redwood County Republican Party chairman. Instead, Republicans chose Emmer, who lost to Dayton by about 9,000 votes in a year when the party won big nationwide and in Minnesota won control of the House and Senate.

Like the other candidates, Seifert has been light on specific policies he’d pursue as governor. Besides promising to shelve future light-rail routes, Seifert says he wants policies that will put rural residents on “a glide path to equality.”

“It’s not that on Day One we’re going to wave a magic wand and all schools will be funded equally,” he said. “It’s going to be a glide path over four years to make sure that every child — black or white, rural or urban or suburban — will be treated equally in the eyes of God and the eyes of government.”

But Seifert also wants major spending cuts, which could make it tough to find money for new, rural-focused programs. And an equitable balance may be hard to strike: Many rural communities in Minnesota already get more back in state tax dollars than they contribute.

If Seifert wins the August primary, his rural pitch will likely remain a major theme. Already he has lambasted Dayton for selecting his former chief of staff, Tina Smith of Minneapolis, as his running mate. Smith replaces outgoing Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon of Duluth.

Another factoid Seifert likes to brandish is that, alone among both Dayton and the three other Republicans, Seifert has lived his entire life in Minnesota. Johnson, born and raised in Detroit Lakes, spent time in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Zellers grew up in North Dakota and moved to Minnesota as an adult. Honour is a Minnesota native, but built his business career in California. Dayton was born and raised in Minnesota, but spent parts of his life on the East Coast.

“I’m the only lifer in the group,” Seifert said. “Everyone else has lived at least some portion of their life outside Minnesota.”


Staff writers Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glenn Howatt contributed to this story.

Patrick Condon • 651-925-5049


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  • Marty Seifert is taking another run at being the GOP nominee for governor this fall, an endorsement he lost to Tom Emmer in 2010.

  • Scott Honour

  • Jeff Johnson

  • Kurt Zellers

  • ELECTION 2014


    First of four Republican candidate profiles in advance of Aug. 12 primary.

    Born: April 23, 1972, Springfield, Minn.
    Home: Marshall
    Work history: Small business owner, Seifert Properties; past executive director, Avera Marshall Hospital Foundation. Former House minority leader, GOP representative from Marshall between 1997 and 2011. Former government teacher and history teacher at Marshall High School, and college admissions counselor at Southwest Minnesota State University.
    Signature issue: Making government smaller and smarter.
    First job: Counter worker at Dari King, a drive-in style burger and ice cream restaurant in Redwood Falls, Minn.
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