Former Republican House Minority Leader Marty Seifert officially launched his second bid for the state’s top office on Thursday, and this time he wants to take the focus off of the nearly 15 years spent in Legislature.
Seifert, who lost the GOP endorsement to run for governor in 2010, announced his campaign for the office in his hometown of Marshall before starting on a 13-city tour that will include stops in St. Paul and Mankato. He highlighted his work with the Avera Marshall Foundation in the years since he left the Legislature, while at the same time rolling out a detailed five-point plan to cut back on government bureaucracy and spending, an extension of his work as a Republican lawmaker in St. Paul.
“I come to you today as a 100 percent private sector citizen, as someone who has observed the state of Minnesota wallow in higher taxes, businesses looking to leave the state, health insurance premiums skyrocketing for the average Minnesotan, contemplation of releasing dangerous sex offenders,” Seifert told a crowd gathered at a St. Paul press conference. “I have a mixture of private sector and public experience, not all one and not all the other. I understand the budget, but more importantly I understand the budget of the average working class Minnesotan.”
Seifert said he’s “aggressively” campaigning for the endorsement but did not promise to abide by that decision. He joins five other Republicans in the race, including two candidates — Rep. Kurt Zellers and businessman Scott Honour — who have already said they will likely run in a primary contest. “I’m open-minded to a primary,” he said. “But I’m not triggering a primary.”
Seifert served seven terms representing a rural southwest Minnesota House district. During that time slashed budgets as chairman of the State Government Finance Committee, and he led House Republicans as minority leader before stepping down from the position to run for governor in 2010. He was the early favorite in that contest, but fellow GOP Rep. Tom Emmer captured the hearts of party activists at the spring endorsing contest. Emmer won the endorsement over Seifert in two ballots, but he went on to lose the race to now-Gov. Mark Dayton by less than 9,000 votes.
In his campaign rollout, Seifert had a message for Minnesota Republicans: “You cannot win in Minnesota unless you have non-Republicans vote for you,” Seifert said. He said activists are stressing “electability” this time around.
“[Republicans] don’t want to lose,” he said. “They are tired of losing statewide elections.”
Seifert outlined a five-point plan if he’s elected governor that includes eliminating the Metropolitan Council, as well as the Departments of Corrections, Health and Labor and Industry, halting construction on the Southwest Light Rail line in Minneapolis and reducing taxes. Seifert, a former history teacher, also put an emphasis on education reform. In particular he said he would tackle the “erosion” of quality student-instructor contact time in the state’s schools.
He also dismissed the notion that his late entrance into the race will hurt him in courting GOP activists. He joked: “Last time I was the first guy in the race, and you know how that turned out.”