GOP gubernatorial candidate Kurt Zellers has tapped former Rep. Dean Simpson as his running mate, selecting someone more moderate on issues of the minimum wage and taxation.
“He is what Main Street Minnesota is all about,” said Zellers, a former Minnesota House Speaker who served with Simpson in the Legislature. “We’ve been missing a good salesman and a good cheerleader for Minnesota for the last four years."
Simpson described himself as “a little bit on the moderate side” at a Capitol news conference to introduce the team. A former New York Mills mayor and four-decade grocery store owner, Simpson has voted in favor of tax increases before and said he supports looking at expanding the sales tax to include more items.
He also said he has no interest in repealing the minimum wage increase DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Democratic legislators passed earlier this year.
Simpson said his grocery store employees make more than the minimum wage and that once the new $9.50 hourly wage is fully implemented, he will probably give workers raises to make sure they are comfortably above it.
“I am certainly not going to try to do anything to repeal it, that’s for sure,” Simpson said.
Simpson’s position puts him at odds with the candidate at the top of the ticket.
After Democrats announced the deal to raise the base wage, Zellers pledged to work to rescind the wage increase if elected governor.
Zellers expressed skepticism about tax breaks that Dayton and legislative leaders agreed to as part of the successful bid to lure the Super Bowl to Minnesota in 2018.
Zellers was a prominent opponent of the state-backed portion of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium, but Simpson supported a measure to aid the new Twins stadium.
Of the tax incentives for the Super Bowl, “I always thing that is tenuous at best,” Zellers said. “You introduce a few guys from Florida to ice fishing, that’s a great day.”
If elected, Zellers would likely need to become a crucial leader in the effort to make sure the event is a success.
The candidate declined to say whether he'd support state involvement, but added: “I am going to be the best cheerleader and the best salesman for Minnesota as I can be."