Republican candidate for governor running in Aug. 12 GOP primary
Minnesotans haven't elected a governor from greater Minnesota since Rudy Perpich, and Marty Seifert thinks it's high time that someone who knows a thing or two about rural Minnesota is elected once again to Minnesota's highest office.
During a stop at the Crookston Municipal Airport Wednesday that was part of several stops he made in the region, the Republican who lives in Marshall focused on his rural upbringing on a farm in a town with a population of around 100. If elected in November, Seifert said he will be a governor who focuses just as much on rural Minnesota's needs as he does the needs of Minnesota's larger metropolitan areas.
"Cities like Crookston will not be fly-over country for me," he said.
But first Seifert and his running mate for lieutentant governor, Pam Myhra, have to emerge as the Republican challengers to first-term incumbent Gov. Mark Dayton. The former Republican state representative who unsuccessfully sought the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2010 made it clear since entering the campaign this time around that he wouldn't aggressively seek the GOP endorsement and would instead run in the Aug. 12 Republican primary. At the state GOP Convention on May 31 in Rochester, Seifert came up short on the fourth ballot against Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, who won the endorsement. Johnson is married to Crookston native Sondi (Lee) Johnson, the daughter of Lloyd and Shirley Lee of Crookston.
Asked about his choice to instead focus on the primary, Seifert said he feels that if people "vote close to home, conveniently and for free," he will win. When people travel a long distance to, say, Rochester and get all fired up at a convention and have to cast ballots in such a passionate, stressful and open setting, Seifert said "something seems to go wrong for me."
But he's OK with that. As a person who embraces the label of "maverick" and being "anti-establishment," Seifert said he'd be a "CEO of the state" who would be an advocate for the whole state," not just the Twin Cities and suburbs.
So does labeling himself as a "CEO" mean he thinks the state should be run like a business? It's a popular conservative approach, after all, to run government more like a private sector entity.
Seifert said that's not what his "CEO" reference means, exactly. "It's just a reference to being a leader, and I don't see Dayton as someone who has emulated great leadership for the state," he said, adding that he thinks Dayton "means well" but his good intentions don’t often translate into positive results. Whether it's the Vikings stadium bill, MNsure, or the new Minnesota Senate office building, Seifert said the governor has a pattern of saying he doesn't particularly like certain pieces of legislation, "But he signs the bills. Issue after issue, he says he doesn't really like it, but he signs it into law."
His CEO reference is more about accountability and transparency, Seifert said.
Asked if his "maverick" approach is limited to the confines of his party or his political approach in general, Seifert cites his ongoing challenge to the other candidates to not accept any money from lobbyists. "People have said you have to go along to get along, but I think it's wrong," he said. "They want something from us, and the way I was raised, if someone paid to lobby gives you money the day before you vote on something, they want something."
His anti-lobbyist money stance isn't something new "just to get press attention," either, Seifert said, citing his seven terms as a state legislator in which he "never took a penny" from lobbyists.
Seifert said the three other Republicans seeking the gubernatorial nomination are "all generally conservative and good guys," but "I just don't take money from lobbyists and I'm the only one from rural Minnesota."
Seifert stopped in Crookston a day after U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Kantor's stunning defeat in the Republican primary in Virginia, to a Tea Party candidate with a small fraction of Cantor's campaign war chest. Asked for his view on the earth-shaking Tea Party victory, Seifert said he's not particularly psyched up by it and he doesn't think it's about any one particular issue like immigration reform, which is being widely reported. Instead, he thinks Cantor did what a lot of powerful and successful politicians eventually do: He lost touch with where he came from and the people who elected him.
"From what I've read, he was never around, he wasn't in his district. He lost touch and he just wasn't there," Seifert said of Cantor, who spent the evening of the primary in Virginia at a fund-raiser in Washington, D.C. "That's going to catch up with you eventually."
Seifert said he won't lose touch if he's elected governor of Minnesota. "People have to believe they have a voice no matter where they live and work," he said. "I want to represent all 87 of our counties. There's no fly-over country for me in Minnesota. I'm going to be there."