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Gubernatorial Candidate Profile
Norm Coleman
By Martin Kaste
February 23, 1998
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St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman earned himself weeks of media attention by refusing to say whether he was running for Governor. His coyness on the topic generated weeks of media speculation and jealous gubernatorial candidates in both parties grumbled that he should make up his mind. Coleman finally did earlier this month and formally entered the race on February 15.

Norm Coleman is a former Democrat, a former New Yorker and a former protege of Attorney General Skip Humphrey; but now he wants Minnesota Republicans to think of him as one of them.

Coleman: I proudly say "I am a Minnesotan" - not by birth, but by choice. I think my mom is finally giving away my room in Brooklyn. And no one has deeper convictions than the convert. I can open the door of this party. DFLers, Independents. I proudly seek the party's endorsement for Governor and pledge to support the party convention's nominee for Governor.

Moderate, suburban Republicans like him because they think he's a moderate like them; and Coleman reinforced that impression when he switched to the Republican party in 1996, and cited moderate Republican figures like Rudolph Giuliani and Jack Kemp as his role models. But he also needs to woo the social conservatives who control the party's endorsement process. He's already made it clear that he opposes legalized abortion but he's also playing up family values in general.

Coleman: I believe in my bones, I believe in my heart, that a society built on lasting values, like family, faith and dignity respect for all life, limited democratic government, is the best path...for human potential.

Coleman faces an ideological tight-wire act in the next few months, as he recruits conservative Republican delegates without saying anything that would scare off mainstream voters in the general election. Former party Chairman Chris Georgacas says Coleman is the one candidate who can satisfy both groups.

Georgacas: Norm Coleman is just an outstanding communicator of mainstream conservative values. Norm Coleman in my mind is very similar in those gifts to Ronald Reagan, who make conservativism - a discredited political philosophy - the bedrock of political society. And I think Norm Coleman has those same qualities.

Coleman has pledged to honor the party's endorsement process this summer, a move that strikes some observers as a political risk since the convention may stay true to form and nominate conservative Allen Quist again, or Joanne Benson, who won a non-biding party straw poll last September. But pledging to honor the endorsement process may be the only way Coleman can convince skeptical party activists that he's serious about being a Republican.

Norm Coleman's web site

Quotations are excerpted from audio samples.