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One day after Gov. Ventura's surprise announcement that he won't seek re-election, the field of candidates for governor is still in flux. More names are being talked about as possible Independence Party candidates, and other potential candidates have taken their names out of the running.
Independence Party chair Jack Uldrich says he hopes to recruit a prominent gubernatorial candidate by early July. His first choice is former DFL congressman Tim Penny, who says he's seriously considering it. Uldrich says plan B is state Planning Director Dean Barkley, who says if Penny doesn't jump in, he might.
Before Ventura, Barkley was the most public face of what has become the Independence Party. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress once and the U.S. Senate twice. Barkley says running for governor would be far different, because statewide candidates qualify for public campaign funding.
"When you get a check for $400,000 to $500,000 from the state of Minnesota to put into your campaign, and you can use the $50 PCR program, where the first $50 a person gives to you they get back from the state, you cannot believe the difference that makes in being able to raise enough money to do a media campaign to get your message out," Barkley said.
Barkley helped run Ventura's campaign for governor in 1998, and says Ventura would not have won without public money.
Independence Party Chair Uldrich says if neither Penny nor Barkley decides to run, he'll get into the race. The Independence Party will endorse a gubernatorial candidate at its state convention July 13.
Education Commissioner Christine Jax says she's considering running for the Independence Party nomination. She says if she runs, she might not seek party endorsement, since party officials are backing Tim Penny.
"If I decide that I am in the race, I may have to take it to the primary. I align, I think, very well with the Independence Party and with many Minnesotans, I would think at least 34 percent of Minnesotans who want small government. And Tim Penny has, at least in the past, been pro-life, and I don't think that's small government," Jax said.
Jax has never run for office before. She says many people have encouraged her to run for governor because she's not a politician. She says that would give her an edge over Penny and legislative leaders Roger Moe and Tim Pawlenty. Moe, the DFL's endorsed candidate, says he hopes Penny stays out of the race.
"I think you'll have to also understand that it may very well have an impact on some potential votes for me, but it also will have an impact on potential votes for the Republican candidate as well, simply because I think Tim has carved a position that's probably on economic issues and on some social issues much more consistent with the Republicans than with the DFL," according to Moe.
Moe's Republican rival, House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty, joked that the November ballot could have a long list of gubernatorial candidates. "It's almost like we're moving towards a parliamentary system in Minnesota. We have the Greens and the Democrats and the Independents and the Republicans and the Libertarians and the Constitutional Party - and pretty soon we'll be like Italy; running with 50 parties or something," Pawlenty said.
The Green Party, the state's fourth major party, has endorsed field organizer Ken Pentel for governor. With Ventura out of the running, some political observers have wondered whether other high-profile candidates might reconsider the race.
State Auditor Judi Dutcher, who lost the DFL endorsement to Moe, says she's not interested. Attorney General Mike Hatch, who has made no secret of his interest in the governor's office in the past, says not this year.
"I'm very happy running for attorney general, I like this job, I like to think I'm doing a pretty good job with it, and want to continue doing it," he said.
Hatch says one of the reasons he didn't run for governor is the desire to protect his private life. He says he admires Gov. Ventura for protecting his family by foregoing the chance to seek a second term.
Anyone who's mulling over the governor's race has less than a month to make a decision; the filing period for candidates runs July 2-16.More from MPR