NEW ULM - There are a lot of good reasons Marty Seifert thinks Minnesotans should vote for him for governor, but one reason should especially resonate with New Ulm voters.
"No candidate for governor drives on Highway 14 as much as Marty Seifert," the GOP hopeful said in an interview Friday. His wife has relatives in the Mankato area, and the couple makes the drive frequently.
"I"ve driven past the orange poles between Nicollet and North Mankato, and I know we need a four-lane highway."
Seifert, a former state representative from Marshall, is the only rural candidate for governor in a field that includes six Republican hopefuls and Gov. Mark Dayton.
Seifert said he provides a good contrast to Dayton. "I'm the only Republican candidate who outpolled the governor, in a KSTP TV poll in 2010."
Seifert lost the Republican nomination for governor to Tom Emmer, whose strong conservative stance appealed to the party's conservative wing. Emmer, however, lost to Dayton in an election where the DFL took over control of both houses of the Legislature as well as the governor's office.
Seifert said he is a conservative candidate who can represent the different factions in the party, and who can also draw votes from the moderates as well.
That's the difference in the party this year, he said.
"The Republicans I know - everyone wants to win," said Seifert. "I think we took it for granted that we would win (the governorship). We had held the governor's office for eight years with Tim Pawlenty, and the Democrats hadn't elected a governor since 1986.
"The universal belief among Republicans is that we need a candidate who can win. And everyone knows you need the votes of non-Republicans to win in a statewide election," Seifert said.
Seifert said he won legislative elections by 60 to 70 percent margins in a district that had voted for Bill Clinton, Amy Klobuchar and other Democratic candidates. Seifert said he understands the needs of people in the rural areas, and has solutions for the problems they face.
Seifert said Dayton is not coming across as a strong leader and able administrator in the state.
"You look at the Vikings Stadium deal. The special interest groups were dominating the process. You had a funding mechanism (electronic pulltabs) that everyone agrees didn't work. All of the avenues for private financing - naming rights, advertising - were given to the Vikings," Seifert said.
"You take that and the MNsure disaster, and there's little question we need new leadership in the state."
Seifert had little respect for the budget surplus that is expected at the end of the current biennium.
"They raised taxes by $2 billion, and have a surplus of $1 billion. I don't think anyone deserves special credit," said Seifert. "There is no sense of fiscal responsibility. No one is interested in controlling spending."
With both houses of the Legislature under DFL control, it is essential that a Republican win the governorship to provide a counterbalance, said Seifert.
Seifert said the state can't take four more years of Mark Dayton as governor. Dayton claims his higher taxing policies are pushing the state's economy by investing in valuable services, but Seifert says that's not so.
"I live in the real world, and in the world I live in the average middle class family is going to see discretionary income go down because of increased costs caused by Obamacare and MNsure and higher property taxes. Where I live, most people are struggling. A lot of people have given up hope of finding jobs, and they don't show up in the unemployment numbers."
Leadership will be the theme of his campaign, said Seifert.
"We can do better," he said.