Democratic House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher deserves a lot of credit for getting to where she is today - becoming the first woman endorsed for governor by a major party in Minnesota.
If she takes the next step and becomes the state's next governor, not only does she deserve a pat on the back, someone should rub her feet as well.
But Kelliher has some heavy lifting in front of her. First, she needs to overcome two DFL candidates who if they had an 'S' in their name it would have two vertical lines going through it.
Mark Dayton and Matt Entenza both plan on spending some serious cash on their respective campaigns. Entenza is sinking more than $140,000 into a TV ad that debuted this week; Dayton spent $570,000 of his own money on his campaign last year. That's more than any other candidate for governor raised.
Since she can't outspend them, it will be up to Kelliher to outwork them. But that won't be easy, either, since her current gig has her spending most of her time at the state Capitol overseeing a mostly do-nothing Legislature. At least for the time being, her focus should be on helping to figure out the state's budget deficit. After the session adjourns in May, then she can change gears and take on the big boys in the race for the governor's seat.
Another strike against Kelliher is the public's negative take on the Legislature, which hasn't made many headlines or friends this spring. Dayton and Entenza won't be carrying that bullseye around; they have no ties to the Capitol and this year's Legislature and can use that to their advantage on the campaign trail.
Seifert wasn't overly surprised Kelliher won the endorsement, but said part of him somewhat expected R.T. Rybak to win in Duluth. In a statement congratulating Kelliher on her endorsement he said he anticipated a "bruising primary battle for months'' among DFLers, which could be good for the Republicans.
Kelliher is certainly up to the task politically, but can't keep up financially.
"Entenza and Dayton have dumped a lot of money into the race and it will be difficult for her to compete in that environment," Seifert said. "Somehow Mark Dayton has vanquished endorsed candidates before. In 2000, he ran over the endorsed candidate by a wide margin, so he's got experience in doing that."
While Kelliher's pockets might not run as deep as Dayton's or Entenza's, she does have plenty of powerful support backing her, including endorsements from AFSCME Council 65, the International Union of Operating Engineers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Emily's List, the nation's largest financial resource for female candidates.
Kelliher's chances this fall should also be bolstered by Susan Gaertner's withdrawal from the race earlier this week. In fact, Gaertner's banking on it, saying she didn't want to take votes away from Kelliher. What does that mean exactly? Was she implying that all female voters can now feel free to vote for Kelliher since they don't have two women to choose between?
"This is the closest Minnesota has yet to come to electing a female governor,'' Gaertner said at a Capitol news conference Monday. "That would be history-making.''
Why this need to make history by the way? The state of Minnesota has one U.S. Senator who used to be a comedian/satirist and a Saturday Night Live performer - pretty much a B-list celebrity - and another who is female, and don't forget about U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (you couldn't if you tried), who is the first Republican woman to represent Minnesota in Congress. And we've had a governor who used to be a flamboyant professional wrestler (another B-lister). Having a female governor is fine, but we don't need to elect a woman just to elect a woman, just to make a little history.
With that said, girl power is alive and well in Minnesota politics. Seifert chose a female running mate in Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah, as did fellow Republican candidate Emmer, who on Tuesday named former deputy chief of staff to U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Annette Meeks, as his righthand um, person.
It's been 27 years since Marlene Johnson broke the glass ceiling at the governor's mansion when she became the first female lieutenant governor of Minnesota under Rudy Perpich. There hasn't been a man in that post since.
Man or woman, actions speak louder than words, even for politicians. But they don't always speak louder than dollar signs - bad sign for Kelliher. If she wins in November and becomes the first Democrat governor since Perpich (there's another hurdle - winning over a conservative state), it probably won't be because she's a woman; it definitely won't because she outspent her opponents. It will be because she outworked them and proved that women have muscle, too.