by Howard Lestrud
ECM Political Editor
Former Minnesota House of Representatives Minority Leader Marty Seifert is brimming with confidence just days after entering the gubernatorial race on the Republican side.
Seifert announced his candidacy in late November. His candidacy has been well-received, he said.
Seifert, a candidate for governor in 2010, is one of six Republican candidates who have tossed their hats into the ring for 2014. He was edged for the party endorsement by Tom Emmer in 2010.
Other announced Republican candidates are Rob Farnsworth, teacher and candidate for Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District in 2010; Scott Honour, investment banker; Jeff Johnson, Hennepin County commissioner and former state representative; Dave Thompson, state senator and former radio talk host; and Kurt Zellers, state representative and former speaker of the House.
It is speculated there may be more Republicans entering the race. They include Matt Dean, state representative and former House majority leader; Karin Housley, state senator; Julie Rosen, state senator; and Richard Stanek, Hennepin County sheriff.
Seifert calls himself a unique candidate, one who, he says, can score the trifecta by winning the party endorsement, Republican primary and general election.
“I am probably the only candidate who can pull that off,” he said.
Seifert said he distinguishes himself from other candidates by being from the private sector the past four years “and living in the real world” and not in the bubble of the state Capitol building. Seifert served 14 years in the Minnesota House.
The No. 1 issue in this campaign will be leadership, Seifert said.
There are lots of other issues to address, for example, taxes and budget, education and public safety, Seifert said. Leadership has been missing from the governor’s chair the past three years, evident by the meandering, inconsistent attempted leadership of DFLer Mark Dayton, Seifert said.
Seifert criticizes Dayton’s lead in the adoption of “a horrifically” bad stadium bill and the raising of taxes by billions of dollars. Seifert said Dayton has shown the inability to lead his departments to reduce spending or to do anything different for the good of Minnesota.
Seifert said he has the proven ability to get votes of non-Republicans, winning general elections in a House district that was carried by everyone from President Bill Clinton to Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, both Democrats. Seifert pulled 60-70 percent of the vote in the seven House elections he won.
It’s a simple fact that a candidate can’t win a state election in Minnesota with only Republican votes, Seifert said. Explaining his success, Seifert said: “I think people like straight talk and they like a sense of humor. People see me as a main street conservative.”
Seifert prides himself with a mix of legislative and private-sector experience. He has also been a public high school teacher at Marshall and a former admissions counselor at Southwest Minnesota State University.
After retiring from the Legislature, Seifert obtained his real estate license and has chiefly been a buyer’s agent for Real Estate Retrievers in Marshall.
Seifert was also hired in 2010 to be the executive director of the Avera Marshall Foundation. In his role, he built a Grateful Patient Program for this regional hospital and a Grateful Family Program for the Morningside Heights Care Center, oversaw an employee giving campaign, increased attendance at events and helped raise millions of dollars for the new Avera Cancer Institute Marshall, which conducted its groundbreaking in October 2013.
“I understand when someone comes to the emergency room of a hospital and can’t pay their health care bill,” Seifert said.
He said some people believe Republicans don’t care about the average person.
“I do care,” Seifert said. “I grew up in a poor family, am a middle-class guy and understand Minnesotans’ fundamental needs,” Seifert continued.
Seifert said he understands the state budget because he chaired a budget committee during his terms in the Minnesota Legislature. He said, more importantly, he understands the middle-class family budget.
Seifert said he has the skill and balance needed from a candidate running for statewide office. He said he believes Dayton is vulnerable and is not the popular leader some polls have indicated.
Still early in the campaign, Seifert has visited more than 20 Minnesota cities, and he hoped to add a dozen more before the end of the year. His goal is to travel to all 87 Minnesota counties before the primary election next August.
Seifert said his campaign is open to running in the primary.
“We will assess it fully at the necessary time,” Seifert said.
He also said he is not signing anti-tax pledge cards as he did during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign.
Seifert is a political candidate who has consistently refused donations from lobbyists. In all of his 14 years in the Minnesota House and during his campaign for governor in 2010, he said, he did not accept one penny from a lobbyist. He does expect his gubernatorial campaign to cost several million dollars to get all the way through the process.
“I go into the governorship with a clear conscience and a clear mind, not being clouded with which lobbyist gave me a check before I walked into the office,” Seifert said. That quality makes him a stronger candidate, one who is unique, Seifert declared.
On his website, Seifert has highlighted five important issues under his theme of leadership:
–Reducing taxes and the equivalent regulatory burden on the average Minnesotan.
–Abolishing of three cabinet departments (Health, Labor and Industry, and Corrections), in addition to complete elimination of the Metropolitan Council.
–Improving the state’s transportation system.
–Stopping any attempt to release dangerous sex offenders into the public.
–Reforming the public education system to make it the best in the country.
Seifert says the Republican Party has had some challenges and he does not believe his job is to rescue the party.
“My job is to serve the people of Minnesota,” he said. “I do believe Minnesotans want the conversation to move back into the mainstream and not to the extreme left,” Seifert concluded.
Howard Lestrud can be reached at [email protected].