Kelley next among DFL trio to announce his LG

class=img_thumbleft>State Senator and gubernatorial candidate Steve Kelley (DFL-Hopkins)has chosen retiring State Rep. Ruth Johnson (DFL-St. Peter) to be his lieutenant governor running mate. It will be Johnson's second attempt at the office; she ran on a losing ticket with former Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman is his 1998 bid for governor.

Johnson has served three non-consecutive terms, most recently in the redistricted 23A ward in southern Minnesota. She also recently retired as associate dean of students at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter and was on the House Education Finance Committee. Kelley chairs the Senate Education Committee and told City Pages last week that education and health care will be the top two issues of his campaign.

In addition to her emphasis on education, Johnson is the lead DFL member on the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, providing geographical balance with the suburban Kelley. At today's press conference, Kelley said he believed Johnson would be helpful in swaying uncommitted rural delegates in southern Minnesota to his campaign.

Kelley is the only one of three DFL candidates for governor who says he will abide by the party's endorsement at the DFL convention in Rochester June 9-11. His opponents, Attorney General Mike Hatch and State Senator Becky Lourey, have said they will continue their campaign into the September primary regardless of the outcome at the convention. Yesterday, Lourey was the first of the three to name her choice for lieutenant governor, selecting Tim Baylor, an African American businessman from North Minneapolis.

The Kelley campaign also announced today that four legislators have endorsed his campaign, news that may ultimately be more significant than the naming of Johnson. Among the four are Rep. Frank Hornstein and Sen. Scott Dibble, both from Minneapolis and both among the most vocal opponents of a new Twins stadium at this year's legislative session. Sen. Tom Huntley, from Duluth, also voted against the Twins stadium. (The fourth lawmaker to endorse Kelley today, Sen. Sharon Marko, was a stadium supporter.) Kelley has admitted that his authorship of the Senate bill to build both a Twins and Vikings stadium has probably hurt his chances of capturing the DFL endorsement. But Hornstein's primary focus at the Capitol this year was reversing the rising class sizes stemming from the inability of education spending to keep up with inflation and classroom needs over the past four years. And Dibble represents a District 60 in the southernmost end of Minneapolis, where Kelley recently won a gubernatorial straw poll.