ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Independence Party candidate Hannah Nicollet said Thursday she failed to qualify for a public campaign subsidy in the Minnesota gubernatorial race, a significant setback that's a financial gain for her opponents.
Nicollet told The Associated Press that she came up short of the minimum $35,000 in checks of $50 or less, the amount the state requires for governor candidates to unlock public money.
She'll miss out on more than $219,000, so the major-party opponents will split $178,000 of that pot. There's a possibility that Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton could be the sole beneficiary if a GOP rival putting substantial personal funds into the race is his challenger.
The Independence Party has been a powerful force in past governor's races, often snagging more than the vote difference between the top two candidates.
It gained major party status in the 1990s — though it was known as the Reform Party when Jesse Ventura rode the ballot line to the governor's office in 1998. Major party status means candidates are eligible for the public subsidy and earn an automatic ballot spot.
Nicollet, a software developer who lives in Roseville, said she will have to work harder to connect with voters because it will be difficult to afford broadcast ads without the public money.
"It means we'll make videos and we'll share them on social media," Nicollet said. "We'll do our best to get our message to spread organically. We'll have to be a little bit more entertaining."
She's framing herself as the half-and-half option for voters, someone who is more fiscally conservative than the incumbent Dayton but more tolerant on social issues than the four GOP contenders. The primary is Aug. 12.
To qualify for public money, candidates must agree to limit their overall spending and the amount of personal money they give their own campaigns. The fund is fed by income tax checkoffs, some of which people designate to a particular party.
Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board director Gary Goldsmith said Dayton and Republican hopefuls Jeff Johnson, Marty Seifert and Kurt Zellers have all signed the subsidy agreement. Businessman Scott Honour has opted out.
Honour campaign consultant Pat Shortridge confirmed Thursday that the candidate recently made another $500,000 personal loan on top of about $400,000 previously.
"Scott has the right message, the right background and the right vision for Minnesota and we'll make sure voters understand that over the remaining days before the primary," Shortridge said.
If one of the Republicans abiding by the agreement is nominated on Aug. 12, that person would receive $89,000 of the Independence Party's subsidy on top of the $302,000 destined for the GOP candidate.
Dayton is in line for about $537,000 with the extra chunk, but could also reap some Republican subsidy dollars if Honour becomes the nominee since Dayton would be the only qualifying recipient, bringing his possible total to $804,000.
The rest of the IP's endorsed slate — Bob Helland for secretary of state, Brandan Borgos for attorney general and Patrick Dean for auditor — qualified for their respective subsidies; those had lower matching donation thresholds. A portion of the public money that Nicollet would have received will go to them.