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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published October 10 2010

Minnesota Political Notebook: Horner rolls out big-name endorsements

ST. PAUL – Tom Horner’s campaign has rolled out big-name supporters for the Independence Party governor candidate.

The campaign brought out a baker’s dozen former Republican lawmakers to announce they support Horner, saying Republican candidate Tom Emmer is too far right politically. Also, a variety of supporters, ranging from rural to urban, went in front of microphones.

Best known of the ex-GOP lawmakers is George Pillsbury, state senator in the 1970s and early 1980s and a member of the Pillsbury food products family.

“He still makes more sense than any of the alternatives,” Pillsbury said about Horner, a longtime friend.

Pillsbury, approaching 90 years old, said he also is a friend of Democratic candidate Mark Dayton, who was an all-state hockey goalie. “But we need something more than that for a governor,” he said.

Former state Rep. Dennis Ozment of Rosemount said he is in “the Horner corner” because the Independence candidate can bring the two political extremes together. “Tom Horner is an experienced uniter,” he said.

Deputy GOP Chairman Michael Brodkorb said that the ex-lawmakers are from a “bygone era.”

Included in Horner’s supporters is a former North Dakota governor: Allen Olson, governor from 1981-1984 after being attorney general eight years.

Olson moved to the Twin Cities area two years after he lost re-election to Democrat George Sinner. Olson, a Republican, joins former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson in Horner’s camp.

Not to be outdone, the National Federation of Independent Businesses endorsed Emmer, and community leaders from around Minnesota came out for Dayton.

Waving the flags

It looked like the Fourth of July as state Rep. Tom Rukavina stood in front of 10 flags to denounce Republican governor candidate Tom Emmer’s record of voting against jobs.

“This whole election is about jobs,” the Virginia, Minn., Democrat said, adding that Emmer has not supported bills that would have led to more work for Minnesotans.

Rukavina said Emmer, a fellow legislator, would follow incumbent Gov. Tim Pawlenty, under whose tenure Minnesota has gained an average of 185 jobs a year.

The fiery Iron Range lawmaker said that 34,400 new jobs were created each year under Gov. Rudy Perpich, 45,200 under Gov. Arne Carlson and 23,500 under Gov. Jesse Ventura.

The flags were more than a patriotic prop. They illustrated a Rukavina bill that became law in 2007 to make it illegal to sell American flags made outside of this country. Emmer voted against it.

Sviggum considers

It doesn’t take a very long talk with Steve Sviggum to realize that he harbors regret about not running for governor.

The former Republican Minnesota House speaker from Kenyon was eating a quick lunch when a reporter walked into the Chinese fast-food restaurant and the two started talking politics. Sviggum admitted to having “a hole in my stomach” about not opting to run a year and a half ago. (If he did run, he would have been forced to quit his state labor and industry commissioner job because of a federal law, and he needed the work “to pay the Visa bill.”)

Sviggum did not rule out future political runs, including for the U.S. House if new district lines put Kenyon in a Democratic-controlled district.

After the longtime legislator finished his lunch, he handed the reporter the fortune from his cookie and said, “I should have stopped here (to eat) 18 months ago.”

The fortune said: “Take the initiative and others will support you.”

Horner faces goal

Most governor candidates avoid being specific, knowing that could hurt their campaigns.

But Tom Horner of the Independence Party broke with that tradition in revealing where his campaign needs to be in the polls to be competitive: “To cross that threshold to get into the 20 percent range by mid-October.”

The most recent poll showed him stuck at 15 percent, just days away from mid-October.

Most politicians avoid revealing internal campaign goals out of fear that if they don’t reach a goal financial and voter support will disappear.

DFL ads begin

Two Democratic-Farmer-Labor statewide candidates are airing television commercials, joining the three major governor candidates and a bunch of independent organizations.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s first commercial of the year, a 30-second spot, features him talking about his commitment to Minnesota voters. Republican Rep. Dan Severson is challenging Ritchie.

State Auditor Rebecca Otto released both a television commercial and a series of Web videos.

Otto’s TV spot is called “Excellence in Accountability,” named after an award she received from a national auditors’ association.

Her campaign website also is rolling out what are called “online doorknocks,” so-called because Otto does not have a chance to knock on every Minnesotan’s door, but in the videos she says what she would say if she could meet all voters.

Otto’s major opponent is the Republican woman she beat in 2006, former Auditor Pat Anderson.

Also, the DFL Party launched its first commercial of the season, supporting governor candidate Mark Dayton’s education ideas.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.