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Governor candidates hoping for support at today's caucuses

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ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS

Here are major party candidates for the statewide governor’s race that will be considered at today’s caucuses:

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Democratic-Farmer-Labor

Mark Dayton

After spending most of his adult life in public service, the first-term DFL governor is by far the best-known candidate on Minnesota’s ballot this year. But this time around, he’s doing something different: He’s running for a second term (he stepped down after one term as both state auditor and U.S. senator), and the heir to his family’s department store fortune is not self-financing his current campaign after spending millions from his own pocket on his previous races. He raised more than $1 million from contributors in 2013.

Dayton, 67, narrowly won the 2010 gubernatorial election after a recount. He got into a budget battle with the Republican-controlled legislature in 2011 that led to a 20-day government shutdown, but the following year he and GOP lawmakers passed a bill to fund construction of a new Vikings stadium in Minneapolis. After DFLers took control of the Legislature in 2012, he signed a law legalizing same-sex marriage and increased taxes on high-income earners, using the new revenue to erase a state budget deficit, pay back IOUs to schools, provide free all-day kindergarten and subsidize expansions at the Mayo Clinic, 3M and the Mall of America.

Republican

Rob Farnsworth

A special education teacher from Hibbing, Farnsworth, 35, is not as well-known as the other GOP candidates. His only previous political experience was as an unsuccessful contender for the Republican endorsement for Congress in the 8th District in 2010. He contends his lack of experience could be an asset because, unlike most of the other candidates, he doesn’t have a legislative record to defend, making it hard for Democrats to dig up political baggage to use against him. The son of an iron miner and a teachers union member, he’s not a typical Republican candidate.

Scott Honour

Orono businessman Scott Honour, 47, is another political newcomer, although he’s known in Republican circles as a high-dollar fundraiser for Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign. A Fridley native, he was a successful investment banker in Los Angeles, where, according to his campaign website, his firm bought and fixed 60 troubled companies. He moved back to Minnesota in 2012 and started a business that operates natural gas filling stations. Honour is seeking the GOP endorsement but will not rule out running in the party’s Aug. 12 GOP primary if another candidate is endorsed at the state Republican convention in late May. He raised more than $500,000 for his campaign last year, more than any other GOP candidate in the race.

Jeff Johnson

The Hennepin County commissioner from Plymouth is probably the best-known candidate to Republican insiders. An attorney and three-term state legislator, he was the party’s endorsed candidate for attorney general in 2006 (losing the election to DFLer Lori Swanson) and served as the state Republican National Committeeman until he announced his candidacy for governor last year. Johnson, 47, won a straw poll at the 2013 GOP state convention in October, making him an early frontrunner for the party’s endorsement this year. He has pledged to abide by the endorsement. His campaign raised more than $240,000 last year.

Marty Seifert

The former House minority leader from Marshall was a late entrant into the race, announcing his candidacy Nov. 21. But GOP activists know him well. After 14 years in the Legislature, he ran for governor in 2010 and narrowly lost the party’s endorsement to Tom Emmer, whom Dayton defeated. This year he plans to run in the primary even if he isn’t endorsed. After his defeat, Seifert, now 41, returned to Marshall to sell real estate and more recently headed a foundation that raised funds to launch a new cancer treatment center there. Even though he wasn’t yet running, he finished a surprising third in the October Republican straw poll as a write-in candidate. Despite his late start, Seifert raised $150,000 during the last five weeks of 2013.

Dave Thompson

The state senator from Lakeville, like Johnson, is banking on Republican delegates endorsing him at the state convention, pledging to end his campaign without that nod. An attorney, Thompson built a following as a conservative talk show host on KSTP-AM for eight years. He went off the air in 2009, a year before he was elected to the first of his two terms in the Senate. During his first year in office, he was quickly elevated to a GOP leadership position, carried a high-profile “right to work ” bill that would have diminished union clout and co-sponsored the constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriages in Minnesota that voters rejected in 2012. Thompson finished second in the GOP straw poll last fall. His campaign raised $120,000 last year.

Kurt Zellers

As the speaker of the Minnesota House in 2011 and 2012, the six-term lawmaker from Maple Grove was the Republicans’ highest-profile state officeholder when they controlled the Legislature, giving him an edge in name identification. Moreover, he spent 20 years traveling the state as a congressional aide, campaign operative and leader of the House Republican caucus’ campaigns. While he was speaker, GOP lawmakers erased a $5 billion deficit without raising taxes. But some say he also bears scars from the government shutdown in 2011, allowing the Vikings stadium bill to pass and putting the constitutional amendment to bar gay marriage on the 2012 ballot. An experienced fundraiser, he collected $403,000 last year — second behind Honour among GOP candidates. Like Honour, he said he would run in a primary if the Republican convention endorses another candidate.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about caucuses:

Who can attend a caucus?

Anyone. They are open to the public. But to participate in the voting and discussions, an attendee must be eligible to vote in the 2014 election, live in the precinct and generally agree with the party’s principles.

Where are they?

An online caucus locator at mnvotes.org provides the major parties’ caucus locations. Other parties’ caucus sites are available at the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website, http://bit.ly/MNCaucuses.

What will happen?

Participants will elect precinct officers and vote on rules for running the caucus. Next, they will elect delegates to county or legislative district conventions. Then they will propose, debate and vote on resolutions on issues to be included in the party’s platform. Republicans also will vote in straw polls for governor and U.S. senator, while Independence Party participants will cast straw ballots on issues.

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