ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota’s slow-starting 2014 governor’s race got its first serious Republican contender on Wednesday when a successful businessman and political newcomer launched a campaign.
Scott Honour revealed his plans in an email and the launch of a campaign website. A Minnesota native and investment banker who lives in Orono, Honour started several businesses and has been a prolific political donor mainly to Republicans, though he has also given to Democrats.
Honour, who is not well known even among state Republicans, declined interview requests on Wednesday. He planned a round of interviews on Thursday that guaranteed a second day of media attention.
In a video on his campaign website, Honour criticized Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton for what he called a lack of leadership. But he also rebuked Republicans at the state Capitol, saying both political parties lack vision.
“It’s time to return real leadership in the governor’s office,” Honour said in the short video. “We need a leader who understands how to create jobs and grow the economy. Someone who will reform government, who will take a fresh look at things and ask, ‘Why are we doing this and how can we do it better?’”
Dayton has said he will seek a second term. On Thursday, he said he expects other Republicans to emerge. Of Honour, he said: “Until about two weeks ago, I had never heard of him.”
On his campaign website, Honour, 46, stresses humble roots. He writes that his parents lived in a trailer park in Fridley when he was born, and he says his father lost his job and pension when Honour was in high school.
“After getting degrees in business and economics, I pursued a career in the private sector that has blessed me and my family more than I could have imagined,” Honour said.
His LinkedIn page says Honour worked as an investment banker in Los Angeles from 1991 to 2002, then moved to The Gores Group, a venture capital and private equity firm where he served as senior managing director through last October. He, his wife Jamie and their three children moved back to Minnesota where Honour and his brother founded FirstCNG, which operates natural gas filling stations.
Minnesota Democrats played up Honour’s wealth. Alliance for a Better Minnesota, a DFL-allied political group, blasted him as a “corporate CEO with mega-millions.” Carrie Lucking, the group’s executive director, tweeted a picture of his Lake Minnetonka mansion. Last summer, the Honours hosted a Mitt Romney fundraiser at their home featuring New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and a who’s-who of top Minnesota Republicans.
In a statement, DFL Chairman Ken Martin called Honour “Minnesota’s Mitt Romney.”
Honour donated thousands to Romney’s two presidential campaigns. He also gave to former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Sen. Norm Coleman, U.S. Reps. Michele Bachmann, Erik Paulsen and John Kline, 2012 Republican Senate candidate Kurt Bills and other Republicans around the country. But he has also given money to Democrats, including the presidential campaigns of former Vice President Al Gore and former Florida Sen. Bob Graham.
Honour has lined up at least one state GOP campaign veteran. Pat Shortridge, the recently departed state Republican Party chairman, was fielding media calls for Honour on Wednesday. Shortridge managed Mark Kennedy’s 2006 U.S. Senate race in Minnesota and also has deep ties to Republicans in Washington.
But Honour’s website and campaign video show an interest in running as a political outsider. He singles out Republican lawmakers for criticism from when they controlled the Legislature in 2011-12.
“Two years ago, I was somewhat shocked to hear my own party applaud a plan that merely cut the rate of spending increases, not actually cut spending,” Honour says on his campaign website. Several of his potential GOP rivals are Republican lawmakers.
Those include former House Speaker Kurt Zellers, Senate Republican leader David Hann, and his fellow state senators Dave Thompson and Julie Rosen. Other possible Republican contenders include Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek and Jeff Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner.
Honour’s personal wealth could be an asset given financial struggles of the state Republican Party. In Dayton, Democrats have a candidate who has tapped his own wealth to fund past campaigns.
Honour said he would bring “results-oriented conservative leadership” to St. Paul. He said he’d emphasize job growth, improving education and “helping people who’ve hit tough times get back on their feet.” He said he would soon travel the state to meet with voters and listen to their ideas.
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