Republican state Representative and former House speaker Kurt Zellers joined the Minnesota governor's race Sunday.
Zellers launched his campaign with an announcement in Maple Grove, which he has represented in the Legislature for 10 years. In an interview with the Associated Press, Zellers said "I think I'm every Minnesotan." The 43-year-old father of two says he's a middle class family man who has been laid off from a job and likes to watch his son play hockey.
He also presided over the House during Minnesota's government shutdown of 2011, a year before voters put the Legislature back into DFL hands. MPR reports Zellers said in his prepared remarks “Right now, state government takes too much, spends too much and wastes too much." Zellers maintains that Republican moves to block tax increases Gov. Mark Dayton sought have helped the state's economy recover from the recession.
While the speaker of the House is generally regarded as one of the most powerful political leaders in the state, the AP points out that it has not been much of a springboard to the governor's office. Only two speakers have been elected governor and both of those occurred more than a century ago.
Zellers becomes the third Republican to challenge Dayton. Business executive Scott Honour and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson are the others. But State Sen. Dave Thompson of Lakeville reportedly plans to join their ranks this week.