By Ryan Gueningsman
Despite being physically larger than his two major opponents, Tom Emmer of Delano still sees his quest to become Minnesota’s next governor as a “David vs. Goliath” battle, with David in the lead.
“It’s kind of fun because, if you think about it, Democrats always like to say that they represent the little guy,” Emmer said on his campaign RV Thursday afternoon. “Well, my goodness, I am the little guy and I’m running against a millionaire and it is the true David and Goliath deal.”
So, can Delano’s little big guy beat Goliath in Tuesday’s election? Emmer said he has the momentum to do so, and his confidence shows through in campaign stops, television interviews, and at campaign headquarters where there is an aire of excitement when Emmer is in the building.
“David’s got the momentum, and I really believe it’s because of that message that resonates regardless of party let us be in control of our opportunities. Give us more ability to self-determine, and the ability for us to be responsible for our successes and failures,” Emmer said. “Government’s got a place nobody’s saying no government just saying it has to be put back in proportion.”
For the husband, father of seven, attorney, and former city council member with Delano and Independence, campaigning to be Minnesota’s next governor has been both rewarding and challenging.
He said, without hesitation, the most rewarding thing he takes away from the campaign trail is the people.
“All the people you get to meet,” he said. “As I’ve said to folks, doing this the last few weeks, if you ever have the chance to do this, absolutely take the opportunity.”
But, at the same time, Emmer admits, “it’s the hardest thing I think I’ve ever done. You’re talking 16 months we’ve been at this, and we have five days left.”
Emmer said he enjoys being able to talk to and find a connection with people.
“Yes, there are people that identify themselves as Republicans, Democrats, but, you know what, when you’re out there, it’s got nothing to do with that,” Emmer explained. “It’s ‘I’m a Minnesotan’ and they believe the same things we do. It’s how do you find ways to rise above whatever party labels people want to have or preconceived notions. As soon as you make a connection, you want the same stuff.”
He said the message he is receiving from people on the campaign trail about what they want or expect from Minnesota’s next governor is pretty simple, yet consistent.
“Don’t raise my taxes and get government out of my way. I hear that all the time,” Emmer said. “Don’t make decisions for me. I can figure out how to raise my kids. I want to make the decisions on how to run my business and how to spend my money. I don’t need politicians and government bureaucrats telling me how to live my life. That comes from Republicans and Democrats alike.”
Emmer said being on the campaign trail has been harder now that his children are back in school.
“It’s been harder, believe it or not, since they’ve been in school,” Emmer said. “Over the summer, we traveled together. The kids were always here. Since we got into school though and all the activities started, it’s hard. The younger kids, it works out pretty good. The older kids have their activities and it’s been very difficult, especially the last two or three weeks, to see a football game, to see a volleyball game. We’re looking forward to that.”
If Emmer has been running a marathon the last 16 months, he is now at the point where he is sprinting toward the finish line.
On the afternoon the Delano Herald Journal joined Emmer on the campaign RV, he had already been to rallies in Bloomington, Lakeville, Red Wing, Northfield, and New Prague. He stopped in Prior Lake for an additional rally, stopped at the Fox 9 studios in Eden Prairie for a live television interview, and then went to campaign headquarters in Minnetonka.
After a quick visit with volunteers, Emmer boarded the RV again, heading toward Alexandria and Moorhead.
“Tomorrow (Friday), we’ll be back on the road the same way, doing a similar amount of cities, headed back this way,” Emmer said, adding there was also a debate scheduled Friday night. In somewhat of a rarity, the gubernatorial candidates have met face-to-face more than 25 times in debate/forum settings.
Saturday found more rallies for Emmer, including an appearance from actor Jon Voight and several high-profile Republican governors at the Anoka County/Blaine Airport.
“It’s a great sign for us because people don’t invest the time like that if they don’t have a strong belief that you’re going to be successful,” Emmer said.
As for some polls of late that may indicate otherwise, Emmer said, “What we’ve been seeing for the last three to four weeks we have seen a steady rise in our numbers. Senator Dayton was dropping for a while. Now he’s just level. He’s not moving at all the last three weeks except a point or two here and there. The Independent’s fallen off.
“If you’re going to hit your stride, now is the time to be doing it,” he added.”
The day the Delano Herald Journal was with Emmer, the campaign released results from its own internal poll conducted Oct. 24 and 25 by Public Opinion Strategies.
The poll of 500 likely voters shows the race for Governor tied: Dayton 40, Emmer 40, Horner 13. The poll has margin of error ±4.38 percent, and is more in line with recent results from Survey USA and Rasmussen, and in contrast to the polling done by the Star Tribune and MPR, according to the campaign.
“We’ve been doing internal polls for several weeks,” Emmer said. “They’re important from the standpoint that it’s just a snapshot in time. The only poll that matters will happen on Tuesday. From our standpoint, it’s a good measurement, albeit that snapshot in time. How’s your message resonating? How are people receiving it? And, clearly, over the last six weeks, every poll out there shows that momentum. It’s good from the standpoint that the message is working, but you only have five days. That can’t be the measure of your success. The measure of your success is Tuesday night.”
How has Delano shown its support for you?
“I like to go home at night. I don’t care what time it is, but I like to be in my own house,” Emmer said. “I like to see the kids, even if it’s early in the morning when I’m leaving.
“Delano’s been great. In fact, you get a little homesick. You’re out here so much, it feels great to get home. The people are the best. It’s fun, because people in Delano are a good cross-section of the people in Minnesota. You have people from all walks of life in Delano. You have people who are connected to a desk job in the city, you have people who are connected to the farm and doing all kinds of agriculture stuff, it’s just a great cross-section.
“It’s home,” he added. “You’re not running for anything, you’re just a neighbor. Delano is a great place to live and it’s a great place to raise a family. It’s a great community.”
Moving away from Delano if elected
“Never say never, but our home is Delano and our kids are very happy in Delano, and it’s not that far.”
If not elected, what’s next?
“This is in the good Lord’s hands. All we can do is show up and work our tail off. We’ll find out on Wednesday what the good Lord has in store for us next, and whatever opportunities present themselves, we’ll be ready and open to finding our way.”
Emmer will attend 19 rallies in 19 cities across Minnesota in the final 25 hours of the campaign, starting by meeting voters in Anoka at 7 a.m. Monday, Nov. 1, visiting throughout the night, and ending with a rally in Delano at 8 a.m. on Election Day at Three Crows Cafe and Coffee House on River Street.
“Throughout the campaign Tom has been overwhelmed by the support he has received from voters who are concerned about who will lead Minnesota,” said Emmer Campaign manager Cullen Sheehan. “Tom will end the campaign the same we he started bringing his message and energy to people across the state who understand how important it is to have a leader ready for the challenges we face.”
Following the Delano rally, the Emmers will vote at the Delano City Hall, enjoy some down time before attending the annual Moistacalli dinner at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, attending a Republican gathering in Monticello, then heading to the hotel for the long night.
“And we’ll probably be there for a long time,” Emmer said. “You don’t know. They said our endorsement battle was going to take 14 hours and all night. That took two hours. So, we never know what’ll happen. It’ll be up to the great people of Minnesota.”
That golden coin
When Emmer received the endorsement from the Republican Party this spring, he had in his pocket a golden coin from his son, Billy. After Emmer received the endorsement, Billy took the coin back from his dad, figuring that it must have worked.
“He has not given it back,” Emmer said with a laugh. “He made sure I gave it back. He made me give it back that day.”
Emmer may have to talk nicely to Billy and try to borrow that coin again Tuesday night.
The modest 2001 RV the campaign has made its on-the-road home over the past year has seen about 20,000 miles put on it.
During the summer, Emmer said there were days when four or five of he and Jacquie’s children would be on the bus at the same time.
He said the transmission has gone out on it once, and one other time, it wouldn’t start.
“It’s had its moments, but the last two-three weeks, it’s been perfect,” Emmer said.
• “My response to anyone who says negative works so does the truth.”
• “We all know what is wrong. Let’s talk about what can make it right.”