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Politcal Notebook: Coleman to candidates: Get around Minnesota, have presence where voters swing back, forth between parties

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ST. PAUL -- Norm Coleman is not running for governor, but he has advice for those who are: travel Minnesota.

As U.S. senator, Coleman tried to do just that as often as possible. Many politicians see the "L" of southern and western Minnesota as especially important because residents there can swing back and forth between political parties.

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"It is important for folks in St. Paul to get out and about to know the state," Coleman said. "That is a challenge they have. ... I have spent a lot of time in Roseau and Willmar and Marshall and Duluth."

Had he run for governor, Coleman admitted he may have had one big negative.

"More on the other side may have been energized against me," he said.

With his 312-vote U.S. Senate defeat fresh on voters' minds, along with the political division it created, Democrats could have turned out in large numbers to vote against him.

Ironically, Coleman started his political life as a Democrat.

In an interview, Coleman answered reporters' top question: Why post the decision not to run on Facebook? "It is 2010. You don't need a press agent or a press spokesperson. You can do it yourself. It is very effective. Technology has made life easier."

Rukavina vs. Vermilion

State Rep. Tom Rukavina ripped a plan to establish Minnesota's largest state park along Lake Vermilion, calling it "fool's gold."

Soudan Underground Mine State Park already provides 15 miles of shore line along the lake, Rukavina said, and the state has done nothing to develop it for use.

"In these tough times when we are going to have to negotiate with the governor, why are we spending $20 million to add 5 more miles of shoreline next to the state park?" the Virginia Democrat asked. "This doesn't make sense."

Rukavina estimated that it would cost $50 million to provide basic infrastructure, including a road. That is beyond the purchase price.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty wants to spend more on buying 3,000 acres for the park than the Legislature authorized two years ago. Rukavina and others promise a fight.

Minnesota would pay landowner U.S. Steel $18 million to buy the land, which Pawlenty says is among the most beautiful of any state park.

"We look at this as a huge opportunity for the state," said Bob Meier of the Department of Natural Resources.

Rukavina disagreed: "That land is not worth that. That land cannot be developed. Basically, they snookered you."

Dayton running

Mark Dayton has been running for Minnesota governor for a year, but on Wednesday officially announced he was running.

He did not mention the dozens of forums and other appearances he has made as he shoe-horned dozens of supporters into a small Capitol room for his announcement. He accused past governors of squandering budget surpluses and emphasized his plan to increase taxes on the richest 10 percent of Minnesotans.

Dayton introduced a half-dozen supporters, who in turn "introduced" him. Then he went through prepared remarks, saying that Minnesota used to be great. "If we have recently slipped from that greatness, it has been a failure of our leadership, not our people."

The former U.S. senator took two questions and one follow-up from reporters, then slowly shook hands with supporters and refused to answer any more questions as he left the room.

Dayton's delayed announcement is more the norm than unique this year. Many candidates have become deeply involved in campaigns before holding an official announcement.

Ex-Republicans run

Two former Republicans are running for governor under the Independence Party banner.

Public relations executive Tom Horner and retired Army Lt. Col. Joe Repya are getting into the crowded race. Both are long-time Republicans.

Horner, an Edina resident, is known to many Minnesotans as a political commentator on Minnesota Public Radio. To Republican insiders, he is known as U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger's chief of staff.

Repya is a well-known veteran from Eagan.

Both candidates say they are abandoning the Republican Party, for now at least, because of the partisanship in politics.

"It is time to put an end to political party divisiveness in St Paul," Repya said.

"I am not a career politician, driven by the desire to be re-elected. Being a politician does not necessarily give one the experience to be a leader, as demonstrated by our current budget crisis."

They join Robert Hahn, Rahn Workcuff and John T. Uldrich in the Independence field.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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