The four Republicans who want to run for governor in November are making last-minute pleas to primary voters ahead of Tuesday's election.
Scott Honour, Jeff Johnson, Kurt Zellers and Marty Seifert campaigned all weekend and were back at it first thing Monday. Honour, an Orono businessman, did breakfast at the Oasis Cafe in Stillwater and talked about state tax policy and jobs with the owner.
The Oasis generated a lot of media attention last week for announcing a 35-cent "minimum wage fee" on its customer tabs. Honour's campaign said the cafe's owner, Craig Beemer, lives in Wisconsin so won't be able to vote in the primary, but that after the visit he said he supported Honour's bid.
Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner from Plymouth, announced a last-minute endorsement from a prominent Republican activist. Jennifer Parrish is a Rochester daycare owner who became the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against Gov. Mark Dayton's efforts to allow unions to organize home child-care providers.
Minnesota Republicans have allied themselves with that lawsuit, and Johnson heavily touted Parrish's backing in a press release. Parrish said Johnson would be "the champion small businesswomen need as the governor of our state.
Johnson is the Republican Party's endorsed candidate in Tuesday's primary. The four-way contest has lacked a clear frontrunner, but many Republicans in recent days have said Johnson seems best positioned to pull out a win by leveraging official party backing in an otherwise close race.
But the expected small turnout makes the outcome unpredictable, and the other candidates also had busy days on tap in hopes of shaking up expectations.
Zellers, the former House speaker from Maple Grove, had radio interviews in the morning and was scheduled to call primary voters all afternoon. Seifert, a former House minority leader from Marshall, lined up more than a dozen radio interviews across the state.
All four candidates are holding election night parties at restaurants on Tuesday. Seifert will be in Mankato, Zellers in Maple Grove, Johnson in Plymouth and Honour in St. Paul.
Republican candidate for governor Marty Seifert suggested Friday that a portion of Minnesota's budget reserves, typically accumulated to protect against economic downturns, should be used to boost state spending on road construction.
Seifert held a Capitol press conference to lay out what he called "Priorities for Minnesota Families." He said as governor, he would push the Legislature to shield Minnesota senior citizens from paying social security taxes on earned benefits; and seek an infusion of state money to build new roads and repair crumbling ones.
Earlier this year, Gov. Mark Dayton and lawmakers increased the budget reserve to $811 million. Seifert said $500 million should suffice, and that the rest could be spent on roads. Seifert said he'd also seek to cancel planned light rail construction, and trim non-construction spending at the Department of Transportation, to find more money for roads. He said he would not support a gas tax increase or other new revenue streams for transportation.
Seifert, a former House minority leader from Marshall, is one of four contenders in Tuesday's GOP primary for governor. The winner will take on Dayton in November.
On Tuesday, Minnesotans will go to the polls to cast their primary ballots.
On Wednesday, will the recount plan begin?
In Minnesota, which has seen three statewide recounts since 2008, including a little remembered Supreme Court justice race, might be headed down the path of another one. With four Republican candidates for governor vying for victory on Tuesday in a race that is expected to be low turnout, some are getting ready for the possibility.
"We have considered it, yeah," said Andy Post, campaign manager for Republican gubernatorial candidate Marty Seifert. Post said he has had talks with legal counsel to be on hand the night of the election and is prepared to make sure their county-level supporters are ready in case the race moves to recount.
The Republican Party, which would be prepared to defend endorsed candidate Jeff Johnson in a recount, has also has plans in place.
"It is not impossible and with any election. We have prepared ourselves and have a team at the ready," said Republican Party chair Keith Downey. He has held meetings about the issue and has plotted out possible recount steps.
Other campaigns have given it less structured thought.
"You have to plan for every eventuality but of all the things I’m planning for right now that’s pretty far down the list," said Pat Shortridge, consultant to Scott Honour's Republican campaign for governor.
"We have made no preparation for that. We are focused on Aug. 12," said Chas Anderson, with Republican Kurt Zellers campaign for governor.
But the possibility of recount is there.
"I think there is a very high likelihood that they are all going to be clustered," said Kent Kaiser, who directed communications in the Secretary of State's office for eight years. Kaiser is now a professor of communications at University of Northwestern.
Minnesota law allows state-paid for a recount for major offices if the top candidates are less than one-quarter of one percent apart in vote tallies. If the difference is great, candidates can ask for a recount with the possibility that they would have to pay the costs.
On Friday, the secretary of state's office announced the canvassing board that would deal with a recount and certify votes for all primary contests.
The members are:
The board plans to meet at 10 a.m. on Aug. 19.
Photo: How 2008 canvassing board member and then-Supreme Court Justice Eric Magnuson sorted out valid votes in the U.S. Senate recount.
REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. -- DFL Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday called his Republican rivals "highly irresponsible" for pledging to re-open an Iron Range mine before an environmental study is done.
Republicans are "just pandering to people up there," Dayton told reporters. "They’re like a lot of other hucksters who have gone up there saying they have jobs to offer, so vote for us."
Dayton, who is seeking re-election, said he will wait until after an environmental impact assessment is completed before he takes a stand.
"I think that's the responsibility I have as governor," Dayton said before giving a short address at the annual FarmFest trade show here.
Earlier this week, Dayton’s GOP rivals said they would give a green light to the PolyMet mine being planned near Hoyt Lakes.
The controversial, $650 million proposal would reopen the abandoned LTV steel facility there, but use it to mine the Duluth Complex, one of the world’s largest undeveloped deposits of copper, nickel and precious metals.
The project has raised the ire of environmentalists, who say the project could degrade ecologically fragile lands and result in long-lasting pollution of nearby rivers and even Lake Superior.
The mine is projected to create 360 jobs. An environmental study by the state Department of Natural Resources is underway, with a report due later this year
Dayton’s remarks come less than a week before a primary that will determine which candidate Republicans will choose to face Dayton in the November election.
As construction workers milled at the site of a new state Senate office building by the Capitol, GOP candidate for governor Jeff Johnson held a press conference off to the side to renew his frequent criticism of the project.
Johnson and three other Republicans are in the final sprint toward Tuesday's primary election, where the party will pick its opponent for DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. Around the same time Johnson criticized the office building as wasteful and tried to link it to Dayton, he drew a rebuke over taxes from GOP opponent Kurt Zellers.
"Jeff Johnson is carrying the same tired ideas that Mark Dayton tried to force on Minnesotans just last year," read a press release from Zellers, the former House speaker. It's a reference to a May 2013 interview in MinnPost where Johnson expressed support for lowering the overall sales tax rate but shrinking the number of products and services exempt from it. That's similar to a tax reform proposal from Dayton in early 2013 that he later abandoned.
Johnson cited his strong rating from the Minnesota Taxpayers League and his record on the Hennepin County Board as evidence for his opposition to tax increases. He said he would seek to cut taxes as governor, and would veto any tax increase from the Legislature.
"Kurt's probably recognized that he's a ways behind and needs to go on the attack," said Johnson, whose endorsement from the state GOP has contributed to a view among many Republicans that he has a slight edge heading toward Tuesday's vote. The other two contenders are Scott Honour, a businessman and political newcomer, and Marty Seifert, the former House minority leader.
Johnson said he preferred to focus his criticism on Dayton, not fellow Republicans. It was Johnson's second press conference at the site of the new Capitol office building in less than six weeks. He called the project, being built with $77 million in taxpayer funds, "symbolic of Dayton's priorities."
The Minnesota DFL noted that several prominent Republican lawmakers, Sen. Dave Senjem and Rep. Matt Dean, were involved in the official process around moving the project forward, and voted in favor of hiring an architect and construction company.
Dean, in response to the DFL criticism, said while he did serve on the appointed panel that signed off on hiring an architect and contractor, that he has repeatedly stated his larger opposition to proceeding with the building . He said he didn't feel the state should specifically penalize architects or contractors for a project that had already been approved.
Johnson said if he were to become governor, he would seek to cancel construction if it's not too far along. If the state has already invested tens of millions, he said, he would try to re-purpose the building for some other state use besides the Senate.
The Honour campaign also took its turn criticizing the office building. The campaign released a video of his running mate, state Sen. Karin Housley, holding up a series of signs mocking the project.