GOP's top governor candidates become clear; DFL race a bit fuzzy
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's precinct caucus straw polls cemented Marty Seifert's front-running role in the Republican governor's race, but the picture remains fuzzy for Democrats.
While Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, also from Minneapolis, each received about 20 percent of a straw poll vote, many factors affect the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party gubernatorial race.
Democrats not committed to any candidate were the third-most prevalent in the Tuesday night caucuses; 15 percent did not pick a candidate, which gives second-tier candidates hope to catch Rybak and Kelliher.
The 20 percent each of the top two candidates received is far less than what will be needed to receive a state convention endorsement next April.
The best-known candidate, former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, did not take part in the non-binding straw poll, saying that he thinks the public should pick the DFL candidate in the August primary election. Also going that route will be Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner and probably former state Rep. Matt Entenza. Dayton and Entenza have lots of money available, giving them an edge in a primary race.
Rybak's poll results show the mayor's strength and they are "a testament to Mayor Rybak's tireless energy and passion for making Minnesota a great state once again," Campaign Manager Tina Smith said. "Even though R.T. was the last candidate to get in the race, he's been all across Minnesota -- and he's only just getting started."
Many candidates who trailed Kelliher and Rybak found reasons to continue their campaigns.
"The straw poll results reinforced what we have known for months," state Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook said. "There will be a number of strong candidates vying for the DFL endorsement at the convention in April."
Another Iron Ranger, Rep. Tom Rukavina of Virginia, said he was "humbled and energized" by the straw poll results.
On the GOP side, Seifert said he wants to emphasize to supporters that "this is the beginning, not the end," so they do not become complacent after his 20-point win.
Emmer said that in the six months he has been running that he has done better than Seifert, who has a long history in the House, including as GOP leader.
He said that indications are that the split of delegates is closer to 50-50 than the straw poll shows.
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.