Tom Horner, Minnesota IP candidate for Governor, has to be having a good time right now. A series of high-profile articles and endorsements may be turning the gubernatorial race into a competitive three-way race.
First, the Star-Tribune (the state’s largest newspaper) released an interesting quasi-endorsement for Tom Horner.
It’s too soon for us to recommend one candidate for governor. Campaigns matter, and we want this one to play out well into October before we make our endorsement.
But after watching a full month of general-election campaigning, we’re issuing a challenge to moderate Minnesota voters seeking a break from polarization. A genuine three-way race is on. Independence Party candidate Tom Horner ranks as a serious contender, and he deserves full consideration by Minnesotans who in more ordinary times might not look at a third-party candidate. That’s especially true of those who value a more centrist, pragmatic approach to governing than has so far been offered up by the GOP and DFL candidates.
This isn’t a typical year in Minnesota politics. And it isn’t typical of this newspaper to put an editorial on the Opinion Exchange section cover. But extraordinary times warrant a break with usual patterns.
The editorial goes on to applaud Horner’s budget plan (while criticizing his opponents’ plans) and also includes another interesting tidbit on his electability:
Since Aug. 10, Horner’s campaign has ramped up dramatically. His fundraising tally has jumped 45 percent in the past two weeks over the previous two-week period, giving him a greater ability to buy ads on TV. That’s an impressive early showing for a third-party candidate.
In the same newspaper, an article ran describing the business community’s hesitance to embrace Republican Tom Emmer. In most Minnesota elections, business votes and money remain squarely in the GOP camp, but Tom Horner has been pulling off some of that support. The division in this typically assumed constituency could become Emmer’s Achilles Heel.
Business leaders say Horner can be persuasive in small settings — convincing enough to prompt a growing number of fundraisers on his behalf.
Among those is business leader Cal Simmons, who, like Burnet, has been a Pawlenty supporter. “There’s a lot of underlying support [for Horner] that hasn’t resulted in financial support yet because people want to back winners,” said Simmons, a partner with Christensen Group, a commercial insurance company in Minnetonka.
David Olson, president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, sees support going in two directions, but doesn’t sense a wide gulf between the GOP and business leaders. “I think divide may be too strong a word,” Olson said. “I know we have thoughtful people supporting both Horner and Emmer.”
The chamber had endorsed Pawlenty by this point in both 2002 and 2006. The group’s political action committee may decide to endorse this week.
For now, many people, like Bennett, are holding back campaign contributions to see if Horner gains traction.
If this seems like a conspiracy on the part of the Strib to bump Horner’s campaign, the newspaper vigorously denies any such notions.
Nancy Barnes, the executive editor of the Star Tribune, was quick to deny there was any sort of teaming up of newsroom and editorial department decision-making. In fact, she said, the news story, several weeks in the making, originally had been scheduled to run a week earlier.“But I held it from last Sunday’s paper [Sept. 5] because I wanted more reporting done, she said in an interview.
The reporter, Baird Helgeson, did do more reporting, and the subsequent story passed muster with Barnes. She and the Strib’s managing editor, Rene Sanchez, then scheduled the story to run today.
It wasn’t until late Friday, Barnes said, that she learned that the editorial department was planning the Horner editorial. She learned about it then, she said, only because the editorial department wants to make sure that its columns and editorials are clearly labeled when they go up on the newspaper’s website.
Horner’s support didn’t only come through the Strib. Instead, a former Governor gave his campaign a much-needed shot of credibility with an endorsement Monday.
Former Republican Governor Arne Carlson is traveling the state with his endorsed candidate for his job, Independent Tom Horner. According to Horner’s campaign, Gov. Carlson cited Minnesota’s dire financial situation in his announcement. Carlson pointed out that “the current record $5.8 billion deficit is the product of poor fiscal management dating back to 2003, when lawmakers began to rely on one-time money to fix long-term budget holes rather than make the tough decisions necessary to address the structural shortfall. Carlson said Horner’s budget plan is a mix of realism and redesign’ and that Horner is the only candidate in the race who has the vision, plan and capabilities to restore financial integrity to the state.”
Although Carlson did endorse Barack Obama for President in 2008, the support did contribute to a narrative of moderate Republicans fleeing the more conservative Emmer.
All of this support may open up more checkbooks for Tom Horner’s campaign for Governor. However, the big barrier he must now surmount are the polls. The latest poll of the race, before all of these new developments, had Horner at 12%, well behind Democrat Mark Dayton and Emmer.
There is still lots of room for Horner to take this race by storm. As Dean Barkley, the 2008 Minnesota IP candidate for Senate, puts it,
The Emmer-Dayton schism is so big. The polls show there is a huge pool of undecideds. [Horner] doesn’t need the big personality. What he needs is to build his name recognition and prove to the political middle that he’s viable. To do that, he needs money for advertising.
With all of this new momentum, Horner just may get his wish.