If you wake up in the middle of a dream, you tend to remember it. Vividly. It's not surprising that I keep dreaming about the governor's race since I'm spending so much time attending events, forums, debates and conventions. And spending so much time writing about it.
I'm not even sure how many DFL candidates we really have. Every now and then another one shows up on the list. I have no idea who Felix is. And Ole Savior doesn't really count. So there's nine that we can take seriously.
After hearing the candidates speak at these events, and after adding up all the input I've had since last fall, I've come to some conclusions. I'll list the pros, cons, and tips for improvement for each candidate.
Tom Bakk - A lot of people like Bakk. He has a lot of knowledge about Minnesota's tax situation. After all, he's the chair of the committee. It's his job to know. The problem with Bakk is that not nearly enough people know who he is. Even a lot of people who follow politics don't really know. My tip to him is to hone his presentation so his audiences are clear about what he's going to do. We already know what the problems are. He should give us a clear plan on how he's going to fix the budget and what his focus will be regarding taxes. In reading comments on various Facebook pages and in talking with hundreds of people on the street and at work, it's obvious that at this time what's wanted is more information about each candidate's plan for success in fixing Minnesota.
Mark Dayton - He started out last year geared up and ready to go. His chances of winning were excellent. He's still got a good chance. Something's going on with the Dayton campaign, though. A lot of people have noticed it. One man told me he wasn't sure if Dayton really wanted to win. I think he does. But whatever is going on over there, he needs to fix it. He's got a young, energetic, enthusiastic staff. Brian Klaas is the best policy director that any campaign could hope to have. Katie Tinucci is a fantastic addition to the staff. Dayton's got the financial means to run a hard campaign. Something's missing now, though, that wasn't missing before. I've heard so many people comment about it. Someone made a comment on his Facebook page shortly after his 87 X 87 campaign started. I always wondered what the commenter meant but never wanted to ask because it didn't sound good. It had to do with something that happened at one of his county meet and greets. Dayton can still win the Primary, but he needs to revamp his campaign and his self-confidence in order to put his chances back up where they were before. He can do it! As we all know, I've always supported Mark Dayton. I heard him say that I and his son Andrew were his biggest supporters ever. So I can say that if he wants to win, he needs to fix whatever's wrong.
Matt Entenza - I didn't hold much hope for him winning the governorship previously. I've changed my mind. I aways thought he was too soft-spoken, too mellow, to enthuse the crowd enough to win. One thing about Matt is that he listens to others, and if he agrees with what he hears, he implements changes. I definitely think that Entenza can learn the dynamics of how to rouse a crowd. He does have good ideas with his Green Energy. Audiences want to know more details about how and when he will fix the problems of the budget, education, jobs, infrastructure, etc. When will we be able to drive down the road without having to swerve constantly to avoid potholes? I'd also recommend just a wee bit more humor. My son Charlie chuckled yesterday at the "Entenza is Norwegian for governor" joke. That was the first time he'd heard it. After talking with Entenza several times now, I have to say that, inspite of what some people say, he actually is a kind man.
Susan Gaertner - I just can't figure Gaertner out. There is no way she is going to win the endorsement. She indicates that she's going to the Primary anyway. No one thinks she has a chance of winning the Primary. She thinks she can. She's sure of it. There must be some reason for all that self-confidence. What isn't she telling us? I get the feeling that she has some kind of plan up her sleeve. I would not totally disregard her prospects yet. It's true that most people don't know who she is. As we all know, good PR can fix that. She better get moving on it.
Margaret Anderson Kelliher - She's actually got a good chance of winning the endorsement. She and R. T. are running neck to neck. She's got a ton of endorsements. She's not my top choice for governor, but if she wins the Primary I will definitely support her. Her main drawback is that people perceive her as not being very effective in standing up to Tim Pawlenty at the Capitol. There is also that little campaign finance matter. The Republicans have already pounced on that. Can she stand up to them?
John Marty - It's amazing how many people want to support John Marty. There's a growing number of Minnesotans who like what they hear and like what they see. Marty is an ethical and upright progressive candidate. If he became governor, this would definitely be a better Minnesota. Much better. So why isn't he doing better at the conventions? Why doesn't he have as many delegates as Rybak? One gentleman told me that it always sounds like he's preaching. Personally, I don't have a problem with that as long as his preaching remains positive and passionate. John Marty is a good guy. While Mark Dayton is like the Lone Ranger, John Marty is more like Matt Dillon. He stands his ground and makes sure that justice is upheld. Everyone knows that Marty would make an excellent governor. Too many say they won't vote for him because they don't think he can win. My son Charlie has a vocal opinion about that. He stated that he will vote for the candidate who will stand up for what he believes and not be wishy washy like the Democrats in Washington. He said that he will vote for the candidate who upholds the progressive values whether he thinks he can win or not. Because if we all vote for the one who has these values, then he will win. If he's the most progressive (and he did get the endorsement of the Progressive Caucus), then we should all get behind him and make sure he wins.
Tom Rukavina - Oh Tommy, Tommy. You gotta love Tom Rukavina! He tells it like it is. He's brutally...er, I mean refreshingly...honest. Many think that he's the only candidate who can stand up against the Republicans. He's got a refreshingly sharp tongue when need be, too. Yet he's got a heart of gold. He's also accomplished lots of good things in the last 24 years at the legislature. He's got progressive values. He's the old farmer labor part of the DFL. He'd be a wonderful friend for anyone to have. He's got a quick wit and a compassionate longing to help the poor and the downtrodden. If Tom Rukavina were governor, there would never be a dull moment at the Capitol or at the Governor's Mansion.
R. T. Rybak - He seems to be the favorite among the delegates. Almost everyone likes Rybak. He brings excitement into a room. He takes an interest in each person he shakes hands with. People always feel that he is very interested in them and their ideas. He's got enthusiasm and charisma. People applaud him as he comes and as he goes. His speech presentations are excellent. Rybak doesn't need notes. He can think on his feet and do it quickly and effectively. His best selling point is his executive experience as the Mayor of Minneapolis. He always tells the audience what he has accomplished there. The list is long and impressive. If Rybak gets the DFL endorsement, which seems likely, he has an excellent chance of winning the Primary. It's my feeling that he can win in November, as well. I think he can carry the crowd far better than either Emmer or Seifert. That means most of the Independent vote would go to Rybak.
Paul Thissen - He has risen fast. He's still a major contender. Because he's fresh and new, he'll get the votes of all those who are tired of the same old, same old. There's a lot of voters who are tired. They want someone new who can lead Minnesota into a new era. Many think that Paul Thissen is that candidate. He's an excellent speaker. He listens to others. While he's listening, you can tell that he cares. He's done some fantastic things at the legislature, including the passing of a bill to give health care access to more kids who didn't have it. Thissen can win the Primary and he can win the General. He's one of reNEW MN's three endorsement candidates. If he doesn't get the DFL endorsement, I'd sure like to see him go to the Primary anyway. Thissen would make a very good governor.
Ok, that's all the DFL candidates who actually have a chance of winning. What an exellent group of people. The biggest challenge is to pick just one.
To refresh your memory on some of the issues, here's the video from the Major Party Debate in Bloomington in January 2010.