Legislative break gives candidates time to campaignby Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The Minnesota Legislature is on a week-long holiday break, and that means several candidates for governor are campaigning full time for the first time in weeks.
Six legislators remain in the crowded gubernatorial field. Those four DFLers and two Republicans are using their days off to travel the state, court party delegates and try to make some news.
DFL state Sen. John Marty of Roseville took advantage of this week's lull at the state Capitol by announcing his running mate and then heading out for a northern campaign swing.
During a morning news conference, Marty praised Sen. Patricia Torres Ray of Minneapolis for her character and passion. He also pointed to the extra campaign help she'll provide.
"It's visiting people, often small groups of delegates and so on. It's going to be a lot of a lot of phone calling. It's going to be an intense month," he said.
Since the session begin in early February, Marty and the other legislators running for governor have been bogged down with committee hearings and floor sessions. They squeezed in campaigning wherever they could.
DFL Rep. Paul Thissen of Minneapolis said the break gives him the time he needs to make some longer campaign trips. He spends time in the car calling delegates. Thissen said he'll be busy all week.
"We have, in the next three days, six meet-and-greets scheduled to meet with delegates in small groups. We have several one-on-one meetings set up," Thissen said. "In between we're on the phones, both me and my wife and volunteers."
Legislators running for governor insist that they've successfully balanced the demands of the legislative session with the demands of their campaigns.
House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher said she's pleased to have some extra time to talk to DFL delegates this week. But Kelliher said her campaign obligations have never been an issue during session.
"I enjoy talking to people on the phone. I enjoy talking to people in person, and I get a lot of ideas and hear what their concerns are," she said. "So, for me it's an enjoyable experience, and I haven't found any problem balancing all of that."
Only one candidate admitted a downside to campaigning during the session.
"It's been extremely difficult," said Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia.
Rukavina said he put in some long days working on the higher education portion of a large budget-cutting bill. He spent every night calling DFL delegates. With so much attention on the state convention, Rukavina said his fundraising efforts suffered, and he had to lay off one of his campaign workers.
"You know the money is not easy to raise right now when you're in session, and you're doing other things," Rukavina said. I mean it's been coming in, and I'm happy with the contributions I've gotten and the support I've gotten, but it is a little difficult while you're in session to be calling for money when you've got other things that you've got to do."
On the Republican side, the endorsement battle appears to be down to two, Rep. Marty Seifert of Marshall and Rep. Tom Emmer of Delano. Emmer did not respond to an interview request in time for this story.
Seifert, who was driving in southeastern Minnesota, said he scheduled dozens of campaign events this week. Battling a bad cell phone signal, Seifert explained that Republicans in the DFL-controlled House have a big disadvantage trying to campaign during session.
"Those things are difficult to schedule with the uncertainty and the floor sessions are scheduled by the House Speaker and the majority leaders who are Democrats and aren't interested in letting us know what the schedule of the Legislature is," Seifert said. "So for us it's a guessing game."
All six legislators in the race say they'll abide by their party's endorsement. The DFL state convention begins April 23 in Duluth. Minnesota's Republicans will gather the following week in Minneapolis.
- All Things Considered, 03/31/2010, 5:20 p.m.