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By Don Davis, State Capitol Bureau, Published May 26 2010

GOP hopes for year like 1994, ’46 or ’28

ST. PAUL – Minnesota Republicans hope 2010 is like 1994. Or 1946. Or, maybe, 1928.

Spurred by discontent with Washington and St. Paul, Grand Old Party candidates are optimistic they can repeat those three pro-GOP years.

“Our government has grown too big,” said Gretchen Hoffman, a first-time candidate running against Sen. Dan Skogen, DFL-Hewitt. “We have lost any common sense.”

“We have a runaway government in Minnesota,” Hoffman said, echoing the message from about other 100 Republican candidates to file for legislative and statewide office Tuesday at the secretary of state’s office, then cheer on the party’s standard-bearer, governor candidate Tom Emmer.

Many of the hopefuls are young and less likely to be the dark-suit-wearing white male candidates Republicans often put on the ballot.

And many, like Hoffman, come to politics for the first time, inspired by the conservative-libertarian tea party movement that in recent months has become very influential in GOP politics.

Emmer, a state representative from Delano with no serious opposition remaining within his party, fired up other candidates and supporters after he joined in filing paperwork to become an official candidate.

He said that in his time on the campaign trail, he hears one main message from the public: “I don’t like the direction this state is moving.”

The candidate calls for a smaller government, lower taxes and less regulation.

Emmer said now is not the time for specific policy plans because he still is listening to the state’s 3 million voters. He promised specifics later.

New candidates in the audience would not quarrel with Emmer’s philosophy about smaller government.

Ben Grimsley, challenging Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said he looked at problems in government and decided he had to run: “I don’t really feel I have a choice.”

Most new GOP candidates are fairly new to politics. Emmer, with years on city councils and in the Minnesota House, has not been a party activist and bills himself as an outsider.

The Minnesota Republican who probably knows most about the 1994 GOP win is Annette Meeks, Emmer’s running mate who helped write the “Contract With America” that boosted her party into U.S. House control and put Newt Gingrich into the speaker’s chair.

This year feels like then, she said.

A busy Tuesday at the secretary of state’s office began with DFL House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher and her running mate, former Finance Commissioner John Gunyou, turning in their paperwork for governor and lieutenant governor.

Filing for state and county offices, as well as in some school districts and cities, continues through Tuesday.

Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.