ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Republican Dave Osmek, an outspoken state senator from Mound, entered the race for governor Tuesday pledging to change business as usual at the State Capitol.
Sen. Osmek launched his campaign with a Capitol press conference, surrounded by his family and supporters, and harkened back to his time working on farms as a youth, baling alfalfa and cleaning out pig pens.
"In south central Minnesota where I grew up you learned about the value of a dollar. You learned about hard work. You learned that it doesn’t come to you, things don’t come to you unless you go out and get them."
During his five years in the Minnesota Senate Osmek has become known for his colorful, direct speaking style, and as someone who doesn't shy away from controversy.
"I’ve been a fighter the entire time I’ve been in the Senate, I opened up the second day starting to fight on Senate floor, so it’s a new attitude that says I believe in what I believe in and I’m not willing to sit down quietly."
Osmek, a father of two who works for United HealthCare, vowed to kill the Southwest Light Rail Transit project and dismantle the regional planning agency that runs the Metropolitan Transit system.
"The first thing I'm going to do is abolish the Metropolitan Council!" Osmek declared, drawing applause from his supporters.
He said if he's elected he'll name former Mound Mayor Mark Hanus as Metropolitan Council chair, and appoint members who will help discontinue the state agency that was created by the Legislature in 1967 to coordinate utilities and land use policies on a regional basis.
"I am so sick and tired of people thinking that Southwest Light Rail or any of the current light rail systems are doing anything other than moving people out of buses to trains," Osmek complained. "That’s not changing the congestion."
Osmek joins a GOP field that already includes Rep. Matt Dean, former state party chair Keith Downey, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson and Ramsey County Commissioner Blake Huffman. Commissioner Johnson was the Republican candidate in 2014, but lost to incumbent Gov. Mark Dayton.
The primary field is even more crowded on the Democrat Farmer Labor arena. The candidates include Congressman Tim Walz, State Auditor Rebecca Otto, Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, former State House Speaker Paul Thissen, former House Majority Leader Erin Murphy and Rep. Tina Liebling.
Some notable political heavy hitters are still on the sideline, so the dynamics of the race could change quite a bit before next June's candidate filing deadline.
Popular Attorney General Lori Swanson may join the DFL race, and Republcian House Speaker Kurt Daudt is also considering a run for governor. Former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch is also viewed as a viable candidate. Even former US Rep. Michele Bachmann's name has come up in some scenarios.
The list of candidates will be shortened by the party convention process, although some will be likely run in the primary next August with or without the party's blessing.
Osmek said if he doesn't capture the endorsement at the state GOP convention, he'll end his bid.
"I believe that we have to have a unified voice behind one candidate," he told reporters.
"If I am not successful, I’m happy to support the person who is going forward, and more importantly I get my life back!"