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Independence Party ready to pick candidate

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's third-largest political party meets this weekend to endorse its governor candidate.

The Minnesota Independence Party will choose among at least three candidates Saturday at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, though all confirmed candidates have said they will run in an Aug. 10 primary election regardless of what party convention delegates decide.

Flanked by his family and by former U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger and former Independence governor candidate Tim Penny, Tom Horner officially kicked off his campaign on Tuesday at the Capitol.

Horner, the party's apparent endorsement frontrunner, described himself as a moderate choice between three Democrats who will run in a primary and Republican candidate Tom Emmer.

He said he is the right person for the job because he is open to good ideas from both sides, where the other candidates are not.

"I believe in the next four years a Republican governor will not be allowed to succeed by the Democrats and a Democrat governor will not be allowed to succeed by the Republicans," Horner said.

Horner is a former Republican who worked for Durenberger in Washington. And he believes Minnesotans will consider him a serious option.

"Our best days as a state always have come when we have had leadership that is independent thinking," he said.

Durenberger compared Horner to former governors Elmer Andersen and Harold LeVander in his willingness to work with both parties. He called Horner "the only independent thinker on the ballot this November."

Jack Uldrich, who chairs the party, said he will be surprised if Horner does not receive the endorsement.

But two others, St. Paul businessman Rob Hahn and retired executive John Uldrich, have been campaigning.

All three candidates plan to run in an August primary if they do not get endorsed, though Jack Uldrich said he would encourage those who do not get the nod to end their campaigns.

A fourth candidate, party activist Chris Pfeifer, also could seek endorsement, Jack Uldrich said.

Horner, Hahn and Uldrich sparred on Minnesota Public Radio Tuesday morning over health care reform, the state's ongoing budget problems and other issues.

Hahn called himself the true independent candidate. He criticized Horner for being a political insider with long Republican ties.

"I'm not afraid to speak my mind," he said. "I'm not afraid to put everything on the table and let them judge for themselves"

He has proposed a "fat tax" on fast food and legalizing riverboat gambling, and said every state department will have to propose 8 to 15 percent budget cuts to balance the deficit.

John Uldrich, father of the party chairman, said his focus would be creating jobs, which "I've been doing ... all my corporate life."

He acknowledged that budget solutions will include heavy cuts. "There is going to be a lot of pain out there."

Andrew Tellijohn reports for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.