Who will Minnesota's next governor be? We'll assume and hope that it will be a DFLer. There are a lot of candidates. Which one should we vote for? How do voters choose?
Many voters choose a name on the ballot at random. We've all done this at some point over the years, especially when we see a list of judges or county attorneys on the ballot. Most people have no idea who these candidates are. Some voters choose a name that sounds good to them or is vaguely familiar. Others may choose by gender. Some will choose a female just for the sake of having more females in office.
Others choose a name that they recognize. The more recognizable the candidate's name is, the better the chances of getting elected. In this year's gubernatorial race, the two top candidates for name recognition, at least so far, are Mark Dayton and R. T. Rybak.
Some voters actually research the candidates' stand on various issues. Others abide by the party's endorsement or by the endorsement of their union or other organization. Others will vote for their legislator who happens to be running for governor.
Many others vote on personalities. Jesse Ventura had a personality that was unforgettable. Skip Humphrey didn't. Norm Coleman might have had but his mudslinging alienated voters.
Finally, voters vote for a candidate they resonate with. They want a candidate they have something in common with. If they think a particular candidate is nothing at all like them, they probably won't vote for that person.
Here's my take in reverse order:
Susan Gaertner - I wanted to like her for governor. I really did. But she gives me absolutely nothing to run with. Her slogan, A Fresh Start, is just not enough. When other candidates are speaking at the forums and debates, she frowns a lot. Plus, when she sees me at events, she doesn't show even a hint of recognition. Gaertner says she's going to the Primary regardless of whether she gets the DFL endorsement. I'm not sure why she would do that. It would take a lot of money. Who will back her? Susan Gaertner has the least chance of any of the serious candidates of becoming our next governor.
Steve Kelley - I like him as a person. He's friendly and upbeat. His Irish ancestry also appeals to me since I'm English, Irish and Scottish. He's smart about a lot of the issues. For some reason he's just not one of the top five contenders. So he dropped out. I hated to see him go, but I couldn't see him winning the election. I hope he'll stay involved in politics, though. We need people like him.
Tom Bakk - He could be a good governor. Not enough people know who he is for him to win, though. He's not one of my top choices because I don't feel he's one of the most liberal candidates.
Margaret Anderson Kelliher - I know she's got a lot of endorsements; I realize she was one of the three chosen candidates for reNEW Minnesota; I know she was way up there on the straw poll for the precinct caucuses. Still, she annoys a lot of people. She crows too much, her speech is a bit too perfect, and the question arises as to how sincere she is. If she were to be governor, would she keep her campaign promises or would she go on to do exactly what she wanted? A lot of people have doubts, but just as many are fully supportive of her. This will be an interesting one to watch. Will many vote for her because the idea of Minnesota having its first woman governor is appealing? Also, her Campaign Finance mistake may work against her. So might her inability to stand up effectively and consistently to Governor Pawlenty.
Matt Entenza - I don't know Entenza very well. I used to have him at the bottom of my list because of the fiasco in the Attorney General's Office a couple of years ago. He's moved up quite a bit in my estimation. I don't think he's a bad guy. He made a mistake and I think he's sorry for it. He would probably actually make a pretty good governor if he kept his eye on what's best for the people of Minnesota and not on any thought of personal gain or fame. I'll have to learn more about his stand on the various issues. If he wants to get elected he should do something about his voice projection at the forums and debates. His voice is too soft and bland. I wish he would liven it up. If he could develop passion and enthusiasm in his voice, he would definitely be a force to reckon with.
Tom Rukavina - He's a cutie and oh so funny. I've heard many wonder whether he were serious enough to be governor. My take is that he can be dead serious when the occasion calls for it. I like him. He's got some great staffers, too. Rukavina is the Farmer-Labor part of DFL. He's had progressive leanings for a long, long time. He could easily accomplish a lot as governor. He's likeable but a bit caustic at times. I could definitely support him as governor. I like his slogan of "refreshingly honest." He almost called it "brutally honest." Maybe that's what we need. He's got a lot of humor, too. He even makes the other candidates laugh. I saw Dayton laugh at something Rukavina said in the same manner that a picture shows him laughing at something Paul Wellstone had said. Free and unburdened. Rukavina's talent for making people laugh is a great start for bringing hope to Minnesota.
John Marty - He's one of the two most liberal and progressive candidates. His Minnesota Health Plan is a work of genius. He's a role model for ethics and morality in politics. Marty would be a great governor because he would make Minnesota a progressive state again. I'm not sure if he can get elected because his voter base is probably far left. I don't know if he can get the independent and swing voters. I wish him the best of luck.
Paul Thissen - No one expected Thissen to rise up so quickly. He was thought of as a dark horse. Most thought that he would be good to go in an election down the road sometime. He's surprised us all with how quickly he became a force to reckon with. Thissen can definitely get independent and swing voters. He might be just what Minnesota needs for a new start. I can't say enough good things about Paul Thissen. I think everyone would be happy if he were elected governor. He could easily win the general election in November, too. He's an excellent communicator; he thinks on his feet quickly and efficiently when he's asked unforeseen questions at the candidate forums and debates; he's got a good personality; he's honest; he definitely wants to make Minnesota a better place to live. For those who are tired of the old way of politics and the old school of political thought, and even the older candidates, then Thissen is the candidate to choose. I call him the Golden Boy. He's the boy next door type. The kind of man loving parents want their daughter to marry. He'd make a great governor. What I like most about him is his willingness to listen. If he doesn't completely understand a particular issue, he'll go out of his way to get more information. He not only listens, but he'll implement changes to address the problem. If he finds that he was wrong about something, which I suspect is seldom, he is willing to change his stand. This is the kind of governor we need. His governorship could be called Minnesota's Golden Years.
R. T. Rybak - Rybak has come up fast from being a virtual unknown. He started to have a recognizable name during the Obama campaign and has come up quickly from there. As mayor of Minnesota's largest city, he has made a name for himself in the metro area. He's done some great things in Minneapolis. It seems a logical step to go from mayor to governor. He's a major contender to win the governor's race. He's got a lot of good things going for him to capture votes in both the metro area and outstate Minnesota. He's friendly and outgoing and he's got excellent communication skills. He knows how to work a room; he knows how to schmooze. Almost everyone likes him. He's got an easy smile and a firm handshake. He's got a great personality. I'm very confident in his ability to be a good governor. I would definitely be happy with Rybak as our next governor. He can get the job done and bring Minnesota into a viable future. If Rybak were governor, we could sleep easy at night knowing that Minnesota would once again take care of it's poorest and sickest, would embrace all with no exceptions, would be on the way to eliminating discrimination and disparities and would again have one of the best educational systems in the country. I don't see many flaws in Rybak. I'm sure he must have some, but I don't see them. He's very popular. He borders on charismatic. He's got enthusiasm. I've never seen or heard him be anything less than positive.
Mark Dayton - Why is Dayton at the top of my "Best Choices for Governor" list? Lots of reasons. First, he's got the most years of public service experience of any of the candidates. It numbers 35 years. He's been involved in progressive politics even longer than that. Some of that experience is very powerful. When I attended his campaign kickoff in Room 125 of the State Capitol, I was struck by the amount of power in that room. Some of it came from the former U. S. Senator; some from other important people in the room; and much of it from the room itself. There are a lot of intense political impressions that have been left in that building for many, many decades. Yet when Dayton was speaking, he had an aura of power as well. At least until the media start asking him their usual annoying questions. I'm glad he had so many of his friends, family, staff and other loved ones there for moral support. Dayton wraps his political cloak of power snugly around himself when he's playing that role. Yet when he's talking to people one-on-one or in small groups, all that power dissipates and he's just a regular guy. Kind, considerate and somewhat shy with a great sense of humor. Another reason he's my top choice is that his entire adult life has been spent trying to help those less fortunate, those who are oppressed, those who are discriminated against and those who are treated unfairly. He has stood up for these groups on the Senate floor even knowing that his views were unpopular in a Republican majority. He always voted his conscience and never wavered from doing what he thought was right. Dayton has earned a reputation for saying what he means and meaning what he says. If he says he'll do something, he will definitely do it. His word is honorable. So is his character. Also, many people vote for the candidate they feel they have the most in common with. The one they resonate with the best. For myself and a great many other Minnesotans, that candidate is Mark Dayton. What could I possibly have in common with Mark Dayton?
1. Coming of age in the late 1960's. People who weren't alive then can't possibly understand the impact that era had on our lives.
2. Neither one of us can sing.
3. We both drive fast.
4. We're both eligible for AARP. Come to think of it, so is Tom Rukavina.
5. Commonality in caring about the same political issues, although I suppose most of the other DFL candiates do as well.
6. We both have a propensity to sometimes blow up over trivial incidents, but then get over it immediately.
7. A great fondness for reading.
8. A thirst and quest for knowledge of spiritual truths.
9. An intense dislike of hurting people's feelings.
10. A good sense of how other people are feeling and reacting.
Do the DFL candidates have flaws? Of course. Don't we all? If we were perfect we wouldn't need to be on this earth anymore. Do any of the candidates have fatal flaws? I leave that for you to decide.