State GOP readies candidates, arguments to defeat Gov. Dayton in 2014

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Five Republican candidates for governor of Minnesota made their cases to an audience of 100 people at Concordia Academy in Roseville Saturday. According to the Pioneer Press, the messages were similar, and the focus was on who is most electable.

It's a question that wasn't asked four years ago, but should have been, said former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert. In 2010, Tom Emmer defeated Seifert for the endorsement. Emmer was then defeated by Democrat Mark Dayton despite a Republican sweep of the Minnesota House and Senate.

The five candidates who participated in the 90-minute debate are all conservative, fiscally and socially. Besides Seifert, they are Hibbing special education teacher Rob Farnsworth, Orono businessman Scott Honour, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson and state Sen. Dave Thompson.

Thompson, who used to host a radio show, said he has the communication skills and charisma to connect with voters.

Johnson said he's had experience working with independents and conservative Democrats, and has proven he can get their votes.

Seifert said he has appeal to the average working voter. A farm kid from Marshall, he has also been a teacher, college counselor, real estate agent and hospital foundation director.

Honour said he knows how to bypass bureaucracy to create jobs. He vowed to apply his business skills to expand business and job opportunities statewide.

Farnsworth, the son of an iron miner and a teachers' union member, said his unusual background will help him stand out among Republicans and appeal to independent-minded Minnesotans.

Two other Republican gubernatorial hopefuls, state Rep. Kurt Zellers and perennial candidate Ole Savior, did not participate in the 90-minute debate.

The Star Tribune reports Republicans will use voter disappointment with MNsure as a centerpiece of the campaign to defeat Dayton.

“The fact is, the governor didn’t manage this at all,” said Minnesota GOP Chairman Keith Downey. “In some ways, it is the classic big-government failure and the governor should be accountable for that.”

“There is not a single Republican fingerprint on MNsure,” said Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover.

Republican precinct caucuses are Feb. 4. A straw poll there will be a first indication of the candidates' appeal, at least to the Republican base.

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