When about 1,300 DFL activists meet this weekend in Minneapolis for their state party convention, one of their biggest decisions will be who to endorse for governor. Early delegate counts show Roger Moe with a slim lead over his major rivals, State Auditor Judy Dutcher and state Sen. Becky Lourey. Moe, the longtime Senate Majority Leader, says he's optimistic he'll get the endorsement, and confident he's the best person to try to regain the governor's office for the DFL.
There's no question that Roger Moe has the most legislative and political experience in the field of candidates running for governor this year. No other candidate comes close. Moe has been in the Senate for 32 years and has led the Senate longer than any other Majority Leader in state history. The 57-year-old former math teacher from Erskine hopes his longevity will appeal to voters.
"He is steady, he's solid, he's honest, he's sensible and he's progressive," said former vice president Walter Mondale, who announced his support for Moe last week. He described Moe as one of the most knowledgeable candidates for governor the state has ever had, and said Moe could reach across party lines and win the election.
Moe says electability is high on the minds of delegates. "That's the one thing that I hear most often from most people regardless of where they're at in the state. 'We want to win this year, Roger - how are you going to do that?'" Moe says.
Moe says he's in the best position to try to take back the governor's office, 12 years after a Democrat last occupied it. "I've got very high name identification for a legislator. I have worked with people from every region of this state on every issue you can imagine. I've treated people for the last 30-plus years the way I'd like to be treated, so I have a reservoir of friends out there and good will, and that means a lot in this process," Moe says.
Moe's two leading opponents for the DFL endorsement - State Auditor Judi Dutcher and state Sen. Becky Lourey - don't discount Moe's experience and knowledge. But Dutcher says Moe has a record of legislative votes that can be held against him in the campaign.
Lourey says Minnesotans are looking for new blood. At a recent debate, Lourey pointed out that when Moe was Skip Humphrey's lieutenant governor running mate in 1998, the ticket came in third, behind Jesse Ventura and Republican Norm Coleman.
Gov. Ventura hasn't announced whether he's running for re-election, but if he does, Moe says it will be a much different race this time. He says no one paid much attention to Ventura's candidacy in '98.
"We didn't take it serious, the Republicans didn't take it serious, and the press gave him a pass. None of that is going to happen this time around. He is going to have to be accountable for what he has done as well as what he has said," according to Moe.
Moe rarely mentions Ventura by name on the campaign trail, but makes veiled references to the often-combative Ventura by saying if elected, he'll restore civility to the governor's office. Moe says the governor should bring people together, not demean and divide them.
He's arguably the least dynamic candidate in the race; Moe has a calm, measured style, and usually pauses for several seconds before answering a question. He also readily admits he likes public service and public policy. Before a recent debate, Moe talked to a voter about the need for a transportation package that funds roads and transit.
"All you have to do is check the projected population growth in this metropolitan region, and you just got to accommodate it," Moe said.
"Another million people in the next 20 years?" asked the voter.
"Something like that," said Moe. "And you can't get by by just crowding more cars on the road, you're not going to be able to do that."
This year, Moe proposed a six-cent a gallon gas tax increase to pay for transportation projects, and has said the next governor will have to raise taxes to balance the budget.
Moe's vision for the future of the state also focuses on education, health care, the environment, jobs and the state's increasing diversity.
Moe's views aren't dramatically different from his rivals for the DFL endorsement, and while Moe is hopeful delegates will choose him, he says he's also realistic.
"I'd like to be governor, and I want to be governor, but I don't need to be governor. I'm very comfortable with who I am. This is not an ego trip for me. I have been given a lot of experience and knowledge about this state that I would like to take to a different level. I'd like to give back," Moe said.
But if Moe doesn't get the backing of his party, he won't be on the ballot this year. Moe says he won't run in a primary if he doesn't get the endorsement, and he won't run for the Senate again.More from MPR