MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Republican State Sen. Dave Thompson filed the legal papers necessary to run for Minnesota Governor Monday, making him the fourth major GOP candidate to join the race against Gov. Mark Dayton.

But why are there already so many candidates so early?

To stake his claim in an already crowded governor’s race, former House Speaker Kurt Zellers compared his own middle class life to Dayton’s life of wealth and privilege.

“I also do not believe fundamentally that he understands what those of us in the middle class go through, and it sure doesn’t give him the right to say he’s fighting for us,” Zellers said.

Zellers is one of four GOP candidates already in the race against Dayton, a first term governor who — on paper — appears to be in good shape for re-election.

Kathryn Pearson is a political science professor for the University of Minnesota.

“Dayton right now enjoys strong support, 57 percent job approval, in the latest poll, and incumbent governors generally win reelection about 80 percent of the time. So, Gov. Dayton has those advantages going in,” Pearson said.

But Republican leaders believe Dayton is not only politically vulnerable, he still might decide not to run after all. They note that in four decades in public life, he has never run for re-election.

“The marketplace is calling for candidates. The marketplace is saying, ‘he can be beat,’” GOP’s Kelly Fenton said.

Election experts say the early governor’s race in Minnesota is important for challengers, who need to raise money, a campaign and their own name recognition.

“Democrats have an edge, but it’s not such a big edge that it means it is a foregone conclusion that the state will elect a democrat. Statewide, republicans and democrats have won in recent years,” Pearson said.

Other Republican candidates for governor include Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson and retired venture capitalist Scott Honour.


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