FAIRMONT, MINN. – Roaring past cornfields and farmland in a giant Ford F-350 pickup, the man who has embarked on a most unlikely campaign for governor is racing to his next meeting.
Republican Scott Honour has made a fortune confounding doubters in the business world. Now he is out to do it in politics, without a shred of political experience or even his party’s endorsement.
“You’ve got these career politicians in St. Paul who don’t know jack about what they are doing,” Honour said. “They sit in St. Paul acting like they are experts on this stuff and they don’t know anything about it.”
Honour is framing himself as the only successful businessman in a field of leading GOP rivals that, he is happy to point out, have more than 50 years of political experience among them. At each stop, he promises to bring a fearless and uncompromising business-minded approach to state government, whether it is to the state budget, unions or regulations.
“I fundamentally believe we are a country built on the back of the private sector, on capitalism, and that is a good thing,” Honour said. “We want people to have economic opportunity. It is not government creating more government jobs that drives this economy.”
Honour’s campaign is closing in on a make-or-break Aug. 12 GOP primary against former Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers, former GOP House leader Marty Seifert and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, who won the GOP endorsement. The winner will go on to face DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.
Honour is part of a larger trend of very wealthy political outsiders getting into politics in a big way, reshuffling statehouses and congressional races around the country. They each follow a similar playbook, swooping in, spending big, and trying to appeal to a growing swell of voters who share a dimming view of entrenched politicians. It worked for Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a former health care executive. It also worked for Michigan GOP Gov. Rick Snyder, a venture capitalist who, like Honour, made most of his fortune in California.
“This is not an ego trip,” Honour said. “People like the fact that I am willing to bet on myself.”
That kind of message appeals to Mitch Davis, general manager of Davisco’s dairy operations in Le Sueur and an Honour contributor. Davis said he is tired of candidates who too quickly are co-opted by state government.
“We send people to change it, and they come back changed,” Davis said. “I am hoping Scott might be the guy who goes there and changes them. Isn’t it time we take a risk and back someone who might bring change?”
Honour is betting big on his run. He has loaned his campaign $300,000 this year, which is more than the $257,000 he has raised from individual donors. First quarter fundraising reports showed that nearly half his donations came from outside Minnesota.
Hitting the road
Like other first-time candidates, Honour is finding out that selling yourself to voters one at a time is not easy.
On one campaign outing, Honour walked into the Lone Star BBQ and Grill at 11:15 a.m. to meet his parents for lunch.
The restaurant sat mostly empty. A woman was writing the lunch specials on a light board by the entry.
“Is this your restaurant?” Honour asked the woman.
“Nope,” she said.
“Awesome. Awesome,” Honour replied.