So the battle is joined. The Democrat-Farmer-Labor Party has now endorsed Mike Hatch, current attorney general and public relations machine, to be its candidate for governor against the incumbent, Tim Pawlenty. This is the battle that everyone has anticipated and it's going to be really interesting.
Hatch defeated two other candidates at the DFL convention in Rochester. One was Steve Kelley, a state senator from Hopkins who is the very model of a modern DFL candidate, i.e., palatable to suburbanites. The other was another state senator, Becky Lourey, a redolent lefty from remote Kerrick, Minnesota who pinch hit for Cindy Sheehan last fall, among other stunts. Lourey is vowing to run in the primary but is currently being worked over by the DFL establishment.
Hatch is an interesting case. He's combative as hell and intensely partisan, but he has been known to buck his party's establishment from time to time. He's originally from the Duluth area and has a lot of the old time Iron Ranger in him. As a gadfly, he's been occasionally useful, but it's difficult to see how he would be able to handle the horse trading and coalition building that is part of the job. One thing I sense is that he is quite honest - about his policy views and (more importantly) his ambitions. And that will help him as he tries to sell himself to the voters.
Pawlenty will be tough to beat, however. He's done a pretty good job of cleaning up the mess that Jesse Ventura left behind, despite the rancor he's faced from the legislature. He's a very deft politician and has been able to package and repackage himself a number of times during the past four years. He's also very ambitious and re-election in 2006 will put him on the short list of potential Vice Presidential candidates for 2008. We'll be watching this campaign closely here.