UPDATED: GOP candidates free of Coleman shadow
ST. PAUL -- Norm Coleman joked that he is "free at last, free at last"
Monday, hours after he opted out of the Minnesota governor's race.
Other Republican candidates also may have been chanting that refrain on
Martin Luther King Jr. Day after complaining that donations and support
were harder to find as GOP activists waited to see what Coleman would
Late Sunday, Coleman posted a statement to his Facebook page saying that
the timing was not right for a candidacy, noting that it is just six
months after a grueling U.S. Senate recount and losing court challenge
and a couple of weeks before Republican activists begin picking
candidates at their Feb. 2 precinct caucuses.
In a Monday interview, Coleman said that he is busy preparing his
American Action Network to be unveiled. The network is a Washington,
D.C.-based think tank and action project to promote issues in the
center-right of the American political spectrum.
Coleman, who commutes to Washington four days a week, did not rule out a
future run for office.
Coleman's decision changes the looks of the GOP contest.
"It brings clarity to the race," Rep. Marty Seifert said.
Seifert, a state representative from Marshall, was anointed the GOP
front-runner in October when he bested a crowded candidate field at a
state party convention. However, another state representative and
gubernatorial candidate, Tom Emmer, said Monday that his campaign is
gaining momentum faster than any other, and he said he expects financial
figures released in a few days to show he raised more December donations
than any other candidate.
"Whether Norm got in or got, it doesn't impact us," Emmer said.
Conventional political wisdom was that Emmer, a Delano lawmaker, picked
up supporters a week ago when Pat Anderson dropped out of the GOP
governor's race to run for state auditor, an office she lost four years
Seifert has not garnered as much of his support from the extreme right
as have Anderson and Emmer, and political observers wondered if
Coleman's decision could help the Marshall legislator.
"I would expect that I would get a lion's share of them," Seifert said
of Coleman supporters.
The Anderson and Coleman decisions do not narrow the race to two people,
Seifert specifically mentioned Sen. David Hann of Eden Prairie, who has
been doing well in straw polls. Others left in the Republican race are
former state Rep. Bill Haas of Champlain, businessman Phil Herwig,
losing 2009 Minneapolis mayor candidate Robert Carney and
environmentalist Leslie Davis.
Delegates to local and state conventions begin to be selected at the
Feb. 2 precinct caucuses. Party delegates gather in Minneapolis in April
to endorse a governor candidate.
"All of the other (major) candidates are public officials or
millionaires," Coleman said, adding that he is not rich.
On the other hand, he said about those on the Republican side, "they
don't have any of the negatives" that come with previous hard statewide
Other Republican candidates face a name-recognition problem that he
"I think it presents a challenge," he said. "I think they understand
Coleman said he is not ready to back a candidate, and may not until
after the party endorses someone.
"I will be actively aiding our candidate," Coleman said.
Coleman and his family made the decision that he would not run for
governor this weekend.
"I did a lot of listening, a lot of praying," he said. "I was looking
for God to give me direction. I didn't see any burning bushes."
That is when he turned to his family.
The one-term senator and two-term St. Paul mayor, who lost the 1998
governor's race, said he hopes to bridge the current partisan gap
without being in elective office.
Davis reports for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Woodbury Bulletin.