Rep. Paul Thissen joined a crowded DFL field of gubernatorial candidates last week, and during an interview he explained his campaign themes: economic security and opportunity for all, and a new DFL-style localism. The idea is that state government would set a goal — like broadband for all — and then give money to local communities and let them figure it out on their own.
This message probably resonates well in places where voters feel politics is a rigged game of bureaucratic and business elites in faraway St. Paul and Washington. Another suspicion: The farther you get from the middle-class enclaves of the cities, the more powerfully that message resonates. Which means greater Minnesota, but also the less affluent and more racially diverse areas of the Twin Cities.
The question is whether Thissen, a Harvard-educated lawyer from strongly DFL southwest Minneapolis, is the guy to deliver it.
Which brings us to this: It’s important to remember that a candidate might look good (or bad) on paper but still have a shot at the DFL convention endorsement. The arcane process and rules will play a big part.
The winner must receive backing from 60 percent of a bit more than 1,200 delegates who will meet in Rochester in early June 2018 for the party convention. Delegate apportionment is stacked in heavily DFL areas, but rural counties can also have outsized influence. Plus, legislators and other party leaders are “super” delegates. It’s dizzying.
Even once the endorsement is decided, Attorney General Lori Swanson — who has not yet announced her candidacy — could play a strategy to win the primary even if she comes up short in (or skips) the endorsement process.
Money money money
A source in the lobbying corps tells me he hasn’t received much in the way of campaign contribution requests from individual lawmakers yet, even though the end of session means they can raise money again. Hunch: A lot of veteran lawmakers — especially on the DFL side — don’t understand the post-Citizens United world we’re living in, the importance of money in winning a closely divided Legislature, or the ability to win influence if they can raise money and give it to the caucus.
Exceptions come to mind: Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, gave his caucus campaign committee $60,000 during the 2014 election cycle, when the GOP took the majority. If you’re a GOP House member with a gavel, you probably already knew that.