NEW ULM - Karin Housley figured she had more than enough to do this year. Running for another public office didn't look like it would fit in.
And yet Housley was in New Ulm Tuesday, a candidate for lieutenant governor on the ticket with Scott Honour, making a campaign swing through southern Minnesota.
Last November, Housley, a Republican state senator serving her first term in District 39 in the Stillwater and Marine on St. Croix area, was approached by a group asking if she would ever consider running for governor. While there have been many women lieutenant governors, no Republican woman has ever run for the governor's office.
"I thought, 'Absolutely, no way,' because I have my own small (real estate) business in the St. Croix River Valley, we have four kids and my daughter's getting married this summer (on July 12)."
The group asked if she would just explore the idea, so Housley set up a committee to look into it and the fundraising that would have to be done. Then her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and her parents were placed in assisted living. And with her husband, former NHL player Phil Housley, in Nashville as an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators, Housley decided to focus on representing her district and taking care of her family.
"I really did want to help the state as much as I could, but I couldn't sacrifice my family," she said.
In the process she got to know the other hopefuls for governor, and as the legislative session drew to a close she became more frustrated with the DFL majority jamming its agenda through to be signed by a DFL governor.
Housley had decided Scott Honour was the candidate most likely to defeat Gov. Mark Dayton, and she offered to help his campaign.
"He said, 'Would you be my lieutenant governor?'"
After talking it over with her family, Housley agreed and is working with Honour to win the Aug. 12 primary election over the Republican-endorsed Jeff Johnson and other challengers Marty Seifert and Rep. Kurt Zellers.
Housley believes Honour is the best candidate to beat Dayton in November because of his background as an investment banker and as a senior managing director for The Gores Group LLC, overseeing acquisitions and mergers.
"He has a record of taking distressed companies and fixing them," said Housley, a skill that would work well in the state government, where even her own party seems bound by traditions and processes simply because "that's the way it's always been done."
Honour has set a goal of reducing the size of government by 10 percent, a goal that many political observers scoff at as naive, "but all you have to do is go back to the budget of three years ago," said Housley.
She believes state government is full of duplication and unnecessary levels of administration that could be streamlined.
As a member of a "Let's Go Fishing with Senior Citizens" group in her area, Housley recalls working to get a $300,000 Department of Natural Resources grant. But it had to go through a couple of other levels of administration, at which point it dwindled to $260,000.
Housley said Honour wants to improve education, not by throwing more money at it, but by fixing things, like the Last-In, First-Out rules for hiring and laying off teachers.
She and Honour believe the state needs to get rid of the MNsure program, and simply opt into the federal Affordable Care Act insurance marketplace.