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Kelliher not like the others

House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher introduces her gubernatorial running mate, John Gunyou, during a May meeting of the DFL Central Committee in Bemidji. Kelliher is the only female candidate for governor and carries the Democratic endorsement. Pioneer Photo/Brad Swenson

MINNEAPOLIS -- Margaret Anderson Kelliher wants voters to know she isn't one of the guys.

She often subtly reminds people that she is the only female major candidate in the Minnesota governor's race, and could become the first woman to lead the state, but even more importantly leading up to the Aug. 10 Democratic primary election she tries to get across the message that she is not loaded with money like her two main opponents.

"David and I live in a very middle class world with our two kids," Kelliher said. "We know what it is like to make ends meet. That is very important to Minnesotans now."

It is a message that was reinforced by recent campaign finance reports that show Matt Entenza poured nearly $4 million of his family's money into his campaign and Mark Dayton has donated more than $3 million to his own effort.

While Kelliher raised more from outside contributors than her competitors, she has fewer dollars to spend. Still, she said, her campaign is targeting those who are likely to vote on Aug. 10, indicating the money she raises is not being wasted.

If Kelliher is the Democratic-Farmer-Laborite winner Aug. 10, it is obvious that Republicans will focus on her recent votes in favor of higher taxes.

"Margaret Anderson Kelliher has repeatedly burdened hard-working Minnesotans with higher taxes on income, gasoline and sales," state GOP Chairman Tony Sutton said. "While Kelliher tries to pretend she is on the side of working Minnesotans today, her record of tax increases and expensive promises of new unsustainable government spending shows she can't be trusted. With the state facing a significant budget deficit, Kelliher has promised massive new spending programs with no way to pay for them."

Kelliher, speaker of the state House the past four years, says she is presenting a more balanced budget approach than her opponents. She also likes to say she can get things done.

She said her plan is balanced, in part, because she is a Minneapolis resident who grew up on a Mankato-area farm.

"Because of my rural background growing up on a dairy farm and working really hard, that connects with a whole bunch of people who value that hard work, who value a stable, honest leadership and the farm background," she said.

And, she added: "There is an advantage of having lived half of my life in the Twin Cities. ... A lot of people can relate to me."

As a legislator, Kelliher said, she brought "people together time and time again. All I have to say is the transportation override."

Especially within the DFL Party, Kelliher emphasizes that she orchestrated an override of a GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty transportation funding bill veto. She won a half-dozen Republican votes to complete the override, which boosted fuel taxes to improve highway funding.

Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.