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Minn. governor candidates keep campaigns off the House floor

ST. PAUL -- State Reps. Tony Sertich and Rod Hamilton were concerned when the Legislative session started that having five of their colleagues running for governor could disrupt the flow of work in the Minnesota House.

But the Legislature has cut $312 million from the state's nearly $1 billion budget deficit, public works and jobs bills and reached a compromise solution on a health care standoff.

So both are pleased with where the House sits heading into the session's final three weeks and grateful for how candidates have kept their aspirations from causing distractions on the House floor.

"They've been respectful of one another," said House Majority Leader Sertich, DFL-Chisholm. "They've been respectful of keeping their campaigns, for the most part, outside the state capitol. I'm grateful for that."

Assistant Minority Leader Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, said he expected major speeches and grandstanding, but has been pleasantly surprised.

"It appears to be somewhat mild here within the House floor," he said.

At least one legislator even thinks the presence of several candidates for higher office has raised the level of debate. Rep. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, said those lawmakers know the work they do is on display and it may drive them to do better work.

"One of the ways you win nomination and win election for governor is to show you are a good legislator," Eken said. "Those who are running for governor are always active but ... it just heightens it even more in trying to accomplish good things, great things for the state."

The Senate has also been largely unaffected, said Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing. Everyone running for office changes subtly to some degree, but Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, and several early candidates from the Senate avoided outrageous behavior as well.

"Sometimes people highlight or over-highlight their strengths and downplay some of their weaknesses," he said. "Overall this session I don't think the people who are running, at least in the Senate, have been grandstanding. That's both sides of the fence."

In the House, Reps. Tom Emmer of Delano and Marty Seifert of Marshall are the leading governor candidates heading into this week's Republican state convention. House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher of Minneapolis won the Democratic governor endorsement late Saturday, with fellow DFL'ers Tom Rukavina and Paul Thissen finishing in the top four.

In the Senate, John Marty of Roseville lost the DFL endorsement, and Sens. David Hann of Eden Prairie and Michael Jungbauer of East Bethel earlier dropped out of the GOP race.

Tellijohn reports for Forum Communications Co.