ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Kurt Zellers, Minnesota's most recent Republican House speaker, joined the race for governor Sunday, saying he would bring a middle-class family man's sensibility to the job.
"I think I'm every Minnesotan. I'm a dad who likes to go watch his kid play hockey," said Zellers, who held his campaign's kick-off event in his hometown of Maple Grove. He said as governor he would focus on giving Minnesotans more confidence their tax dollars are being well-spent, and reducing their tax burdens.
In an interview with The Associated Press ahead of the campaign event, Zellers stressed a common touch, noting that he was once laid off from a job and recalling past struggles to pay household bills. But he also boasts the most high-profile government and political resume among the growing field of Republicans vying to take on Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton next year. Zellers has been in the Legislature for a decade and worked behind the scenes as a Republican operative before that.
Zellers became House speaker when Republicans took over the Legislature in 2010, but lost the post just two years later when Democrats snatched back the majority. He incurred wrath from some fellow Republicans when he let the public financing plan for a new Vikings stadium proceed through the legislative process in 2012 despite his personal opposition.
Zellers defended his time as speaker, which also included the 2011 government shutdown brought about by a long standoff between Dayton and GOP leaders over tax hikes versus spending reductions. He said the Republicans' firm line against taxes showed voters a fiscal conservative in action.