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Pioneer Editorial: Analyzing governor's race for fall

The endorsement of Rep. Tom Emmer as the Minnesota Republican Party's choice for governor sets the stage for the governor's race -- sort of.

There is no doubt Emmer will continue on to become the GOP's nominee in November as he faces token opposition in the Aug. 10 primary. The story on the DFL side is different.

While House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher last weekend won the Democrat's endorsement for governor, she faces a tough primary challenge from two well-known candidates with money - former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton and former House Minority Leader Matt Entenza.

In terms of the endorsements, party faithful on both sides picked candidates at the extremes. Kelliher is a true liberal, one that the GOP label of "tax and spend Democrat" will stick more so than it would with other Democratic candidates. She's not well known outside the Twin Cities, and hasn't spent much time in northern Minnesota.

Emmer is the conservative's darling, especially after his endorsement by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. He is supported by the religious right of the party, as well as the emerging power of the Tea Party folks who want limited government and low taxes. He's of the mold of "no-new-taxes" Gov. Tim Pawlenty and one could assume an Emmer administration would be an extension of Pawlenty eight years, only more conservative.

The picture of extremes could change in the Aug.10 primary. Should Dayton or Entenza win, the DFL side could move more toward the center but would be open to "tax-and-spend" arguments.

The real test, we believe, will come this upcoming weekend when the Independence Party holds its state convention in Bloomington. There delegates will endorse their gubernatorial candidate from among Tom Horner, Bob Hahn and Jack Uldrich. In a party straw poll earlier this year, Horner was clearly the front-runner with 50 percent.

Horner has some background. He's a former Republican operative, having held several posts with then-U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger, R-Minn., and as a Republican political commentator on MPR. He is a founder of the Himle-Horner public relations firm.

Horner has experience in political circles, yet he hasn't been a player. Just enough to make his experience useful. As a Republican, he's now running on a party ticket more middle-of-the-road, where most Minnesotans are, and could break the St. Paul gridlock.

It will make for an interesting race this fall, one in which we believe the Independence Party could again be successful.