Busy Minnesota political day includes Swanson for governor announcement
MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota's politics is in high gear as the state attorney general said she wants to become governor, the governor picked who he wants to replace him, a lieutenant governor candidate said she misspoke about E85 and a Democratic governor candidate formally suspended her campaign.
Monday, June 4, was one of the wildest days Minnesotans have seen in politics. Tuesday, the deadline for filing for state office, could be even wilder if only a portion of the rumors are true.
At the top of Monday's political news was Attorney General Lori Swanson announcing she will run for governor in the Aug. 14 Democratic primary election. While that had been rumored since she withdrew from the attorney general Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party endorsement race over the weekend, the surprise was that her running mate is U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, who already had announced his retirement and endorsed DFL candidate Tim Walz.
"We are a couple of problem solvers," Swanson declared at a news conference called with 42 minutes notice.
She said she dropped out of the attorney general's race at the state DFL convention in Rochester when it became clear that her refusal to sign campaign pledges would prevent her from being endorsed. Many of the pledges, she said, would not be appropriate for an attorney general candidate to sign.
Special-interest groups often ask candidates to pledge to do or not do something if elected. The best-known one is a promise not to raise taxes.
Swanson rattled off a list of problems she solved as attorney general, such as winning an $890 million lawsuit over water pollution in the eastern Twin Cities and various actions to improve health care.
Swanson made it sound like Nolan would be her equal.
"We have big problems facing Minnesota and we need all hands on deck," Swanson said.
"Our goal is to put an end the partisan divide, and end the gridlock," Nolan said.
Nolan said he decided to accept Swanson's weekend running mate offer Monday morning.
Swanson has been attorney general 12 years, replacing Mike Hatch when he launched his ill-fated governor's campaign. She worked for Hatch before she was elected. She is 51 and is the first woman Minnesota attorney general. She lives in Eagan.
Nolan was a congressman in the 1970s and returned in 2013. He is 74 and serves northeast and east-central Minnesota in Washington. He lives in Nisswa.
Both had considered running for governor, but declined.
Swanson enters a race that already included Walz, a southern Minnesota congressman, and party-endorsed Erin Murphy. Candidates have until 5 p.m. Tuesday to add their names to the race.
State Auditor Rebecca Otto, meanwhile, announced on Facebook that she is suspending her campaign for governor. She finished a distant third in Saturday's state convention voting.
Also on Monday, Gov. Mark Dayton announced he favors Murphy to replace him.
"Throughout my years as governor, Erin and I have worked closely together to fight for the progress that is critical to all Minnesotans — better educations for our youngest learners; more good-paying jobs for hard-working families and quality, affordable health care for everyone," Dayton said.
Murphy's running mate, Erin Maye Quade, said on Twitter that she "misspoke" Sunday when Forum News Service asked the suburban Apple Valley resident what E85 is.
"I know how important E85 is to the state's economy and the livelihood of Minnesotans," she said on Twitter.
Maye Quade and Murphy talked to reporters immediately after they spoke to the state DFL convention Sunday.
Forum News Service asked, "What's E85?"
Maye Quade responded: "I am still learning a lot. It sounds like a type of oil."
Republicans picked up the E85 response on social media Monday, many recalling the 2006 election when the Democratic lieutenant governor candidate could not define E85 to a television reporter (up to 85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline).
The incident eventually led Hatch, then attorney general, to call a reporter a "Republican whore" when asked about E85 and his running mate, Judi Dutcher. Many political observers say that cost Hatch the election against incumbent Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is running again in 2018 and made stops Monday in greater Minnesota and St. Paul.
Walz would not say much about Maye Quade's ethanol stumble after he filed paperwork to run on Monday, but his campaign was ready with a page of information proclaiming him "a leading proponent of biofuels."