Lost amid the usual hubbub at the end of this year’s legislative session, the race for governor saw major developments two weeks before the state political conventions.
Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty got in the race for his old job in April without committing to competing for the GOP endorsement at the state convention. After some ominous signs at congressional district conventions, Pawlenty said last week he’d skip the state convention and take his cool million bucks straight to the Aug. 14 primary.
“Tim appreciates the convention delegates, but his late entry into the race effectively precluded a fair fight for endorsement at the convention,” spokesman Sam Winter said in a statement.
Pawlenty avoids the possibility of embarrassing headlines were he to lose at the convention to his chief rival, the 2014 GOP nominee, Jeff Johnson.
Pawlenty made the announcement at the perfect time — during a busy legislative week when the press corps was otherwise occupied.
The timing of some other key announcements was a bit more curious, with major endorsements for DFL candidate state Rep. Erin Murphy getting drowned out.
Service Employees International Union, which comprises 50,000 workers, and the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees and its 43,000 members both endorsed Murphy, giving her a full head of steam going into the endorsing convention.
“We feel like we’re peaking at exactly the right time, and we have awesome partners,” said her campaign manager, James Haggar. After coming in third at the February precinct caucus straw poll, Murphy is showing life.
Something to keep in mind: The delegates to the state convention have already been selected, so labor endorsements don’t change the delegate pool. Presumptive front-runner U.S. Rep. Tim Walz ended a tough week with a boost, winning the biggest labor endorsement of all late Saturday — Education Minnesota.
“We’ve always known this would be a very competitive campaign against strong DFL candidates,” said Nick Coe, Walz’s campaign manager.
State Auditor Rebecca Otto continues to mount a strong challenge, winning the endorsement of the party’s Progressive Caucus last week.
“Otto will govern as a progressive, but equally important, she does and will campaign as a progressive,” said caucus co-chair, Demi Miller.