For months the state’s political class has waited for Attorney General Lori Swanson to announce a run for governor. Because she is likely to skip the DFL convention and go right to a primary, she has not faced the same time pressure as the other candidates, who have been glad-handing delegates for months.
But some DFLers are starting to wonder what Swanson is waiting for.
She could be using this time to make her pitch to the primary electorate while her competitors fight it out for convention delegates. Instead, she waits. Swanson may think media coverage of the upcoming 3M pollution trial — free of noisy static about her political ambitions — is worth it.
The question is, how much is it worth it to Swanson to stay out of the race while she’s giving the opening statement in the 3M trial (or giving a news conference on the courthouse steps, or whatever)? She shrewdly understands the public doesn’t like politics and doesn’t like most politicians.
A DFL operative I talked to last week raised some questions about this tack: “Will people really follow a complicated trial? And 3M is kind of an important, innovative company in Minnesota.”
And if you’re going to compete in a primary you need some serious money, like $1 million.
Jeff Sigurdson, executive director of the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, said a candidate for attorney general can only move $40,000 to a governor campaign account.
So, with every passing day that Swanson isn’t in the governor’s race, she faces the prospect of starting without any money while the primary gets closer.
Once the legislative session begins on Feb. 20, candidates may not solicit contributions from lobbyists or political committees — the low-hanging fruit — until the end of the session on May 21. (Given recent history and the risk of a big fight over a tax bill, the session could easily go longer.) Candidates can still solicit money from individuals during that time, however.
Any money Swanson is spending from her attorney general account gets counted toward her total governor spending limit of about $4 million. (This presumes she’s going to take the public subsidy of roughly $500,000 to $600,000 and thereby have to abide by the spending limit.)
In any case, the clock is ticking.
J. Patrick Coolican • 651-925-5042 firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @jpcoolican