ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Rep. John Kline, the dean of Minnesota’s GOP delegation in Congress, on Friday ruled out a bid for the U.S. Senate or governor next year, saying he wanted to make his intentions clear so other possible candidates will step forward.
Announcing he would seek a seventh term in his southeastern Minnesota district, Kline told reporters that Republicans weighing a statewide run need to announce their decisions soon, especially challengers to freshman Democratic Sen. Al Franken.
“It’s time for them to start to get serious and raise money. That will be a very expensive Senate race,” he said. “Al has shown he can raise money. He’s got money and he can raise money. Whoever our candidate is, they need to be able to do that as well.”
Franken last week said he had $2 million in the bank to support his bid for a second term. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has less than $100,000 saved up for his planned re-election effort, but he has shown a propensity for using personal wealth in his campaigns. Both men won their offices following statewide recounts triggered by the close outcome on Election Night.
No prominent Republicans have emerged to challenge Franken or Dayton.
To take control of the Senate, Republicans need to gain six seats. Twenty-one seats held by Democrats are at stake while Republicans are defending 13 of theirs.
Kline said he has spoken to several potential candidates — all men whom he wouldn’t name — about what it will take to wage an effective campaign. He said the nominees can’t rely on extensive support from the debt-laden state Republican Party, which he described as still “in shambles.” The party hasn’t won a statewide election since 2006.
GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen, a third-term congressman from a western suburban district, told WCCO-AM on Friday he hadn’t made any decision on the race.
A clutch of state legislators could run for either office, as well as some who have never held political office. Two prospects are leaders of corporate investment firms: Scott Honour has been giving serious thought to a gubernatorial campaign and Mike McFadden is feeling out a Senate bid.
At the same cafe where Kline met with a few reporters, Rep. Kurt Zellers was having coffee with former Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
Zellers, the former House speaker, said he is considering a statewide campaign but that he hasn’t arrived at a decision and is leaving both the Senate and governor’s races as options. Pawlenty, the last Minnesota Republican elected statewide, said he has had conversations with a handful of people about running. He said he isn’t worried about the caliber of challengers who will step up.
“You’ll see a flurry of announcements in the next 90 days,” Pawlenty said.
For Kline, moving to the Senate might not be considered a promotion. He has clout in the House as chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee, which makes him a member of leadership. He will turn 66 in September and acknowledged the thought of entering the seniority-driven Senate as a freshman wasn’t attractive.
Kline said he can now focus on a re-election race where he is no shoo-in. He is among a rare set of Republicans elected in districts carried last fall by Democratic President Barack Obama. Kline has a respectable $750,000 in his campaign account.
Former Democratic state Rep. Mike Obermueller, whom Kline beat in 2012, has said he will run again. Newcomer Sona Mehring, the founder of the CaringBridge Web site, is also seeking the Democratic nomination.
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