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Doran switches from Senate to gubernatorial race

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Kelly Doran (MPR Photo/Tim Pugmire)
A largely unknown Minnesota Democrat is dropping out of next year's U.S. Senate race to run instead for governor. Real estate developer and political novice Kelly Doran says his switch was based on a personal considerations, not politics.

St. Paul, Minn. — Kelly Doran's foray into politics began three months ago when he announced he was running as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Mark Dayton. Dayton is not seeking re-election in 2006. But after a summer of parades and speeches, Doran decided to re-aim his political sights on the governor's office. He said he realized a successful U.S. Senate campaign would have had a negative impact on his family.

"Two recent events made it clear to me," he said. "One being the day I took my young daughter Sydney to her first day of pre-school. And recently, when I was at my 13-year-old son Kramer's football game. And it made it clear if I had won the Senate race and gone to Washington I would never have the opportunity to be part of those types of events, and many other aspects of my kids lives growing up."

Doran said poll results were not a factor in his decision to switch races. In fact, he said the polling showed his message was getting through and more people were beginning to recognize his name.

"This is not something that was brought to me by any outside source. It's purely a personal decision. And I think it's a decision that best suits me as an individual. I think I'm better suited for my talent and experience level to be in an executive position as the governor of Minnesota," Doran said.

Doran plans to self-finance his campaign and won't abide by spending caps. He's already spent $750,000 on the three-month Senate bid. Doran also plans to seek the DFL Party endorsement, but hasn't ruled out entering the primary election.

The other Democrats running for governor or considering a campaign include State Sen. Steve Kelley, nonprofit founder Bud Philbrook, perennial candidate Ole Savior and Attorney General Mike Hatch.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general said Hatch wishes Doran well. She said Hatch will announce his political plans next month. Steve Kelley said Doran's entry into the governor's race won't affect his campaign. Kelley also wasn't worried about Doran's financial wherewithal.

"We're going to treat this campaign the same way, from the point of view of having a grassroots organization. We can do that with the resources I know I can raise, and we think that will be the winning strategy," he said.

While Democrats try to sort out who's running for what next year, Minnesota Republicans appear united in their quest to re-elect Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty made his own campaign switch in 2001, when the White House discouraged him from a U.S. Senate campaign.

Ron Carey, chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota, said there's nothing wrong with someone switching campaigns. But he characterized Doran as a wealthy man shopping for elected office.

"He was probably open to either position; it was just a matter of where he saw the best opportunity to be successful. And obviously when he entered the race 90 days ago he thought it was the U.S. Senate. Now he see the gubernatorial race as his area of opportunity," Carey said.

Carey said Doran's decision to not abide by the spending limit means the gubernatorial race could match the U.S. Senate race in the amount of money spent. He said Minnesotans will be inundated next year by campaign ads. Doran's departure from the Senate race leaves three DFL candidates: Ford Bell, Amy Klobuchar and Patty Wetterling. The winner will likely face Republican Congressman Mark Kennedy.