Tim Pawlenty wants another term. Mike Hatch is trying to stop him. Keith Ellison and Margaret Anderson Kelliher are on the move.
If this sounds familiar, it should. It describes the wild stylings of Minnesota politics last week, but it also works if you’re talking about 2006.
Think back to those simpler times, when Donald Trump was a game show host and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” was the party anthem of the year. Many of the other major players in the past week’s torrent of state political news were just striding onto the political stage in 2006.
Back then, Lori Swanson was Hatch’s hand-picked, last-minute candidate to replace him as attorney general. This year, she’s a last-minute candidate for governor, with Hatch aiding her effort.
Hatch even filed for attorney general last week, intent on stopping Ellison’s candidacy. He quickly withdrew when other candidates got in the race.
Back in 2006, Ellison won a crowded DFL primary to represent Minneapolis in Congress, and he’ll again face a crowded DFL primary to see if the party can keep its long grip on the attorney general’s office.
The Republican who ran for attorney general in 2006 against Swanson? That would be Jeff Johnson, the GOP-endorsed candidate for governor facing Pawlenty in the August 14 primary.
Two fresh faces joined DFL ranks that year: Tim Walz, elected to Congress in the First Congressional District, and Erin Murphy, a nurse and labor leader who joined the House from St. Paul. Now they’re running against each other — and Swanson — for the DFL nomination for governor.
Back in those days, Kelliher was helping orchestrate the state House DFL’s return from eight years in the minority, after which she ascended to speaker. Now, after eight years out of electoral politics, she’s running for Ellison’s congressional seat.
Another parallel: Hatch’s 2006 running mate Judi Dutcher couldn’t give a coherent answer about E-85 — the ethanol-gas blend that is important to the corn economy — which set in motion a series of events that many believe contributed to Hatch’s loss to Pawlenty.
Last week, it was Murphy’s running mate, state Rep. Erin Maye Quade, who whiffed on the E-85 question.
Following national winds, the DFL nearly swept the state in 2006, with Pawlenty’s re-election one of only a few bright spots for Republicans that year. It was the last time a Republican won a statewide race in Minnesota — a dry spell the party hopes to end this year.