VIRGINIA — Marty Seifert hopes to win the Republican gubernatorial endorsement and nomination to take on DFL Gov. Mark Dayton in November.
And he says Iron Range voters, who have a long history of strong majority support for Democratic candidates, will then have a clear choice on one of the most important issues in the area — copper/nickel/precious metals mining.
That choice, according to the former legislator from Marshall in southwestern Minnesota, is Seifert the Republican, not Dayton the incumbent DFLer.
Seifert also made it clear in an interview at the Mesabi Daily News last Friday that he will aggressively go after votes on the Range and will take the political fight to Dayton in DFL territory.
“He’s (Dayton) playing kick the can and hide-and-seek on PolyMet and Twin Metals mining projects. He can’t be trusted on this issue. I’m right here out front on the issue. Let’s get to the permitting and production. He wants to further study and review the issue.
“Come on. Enough of that. I’ve read the entire more than 2,000-page (supplemental draft) environmental impact statement on PolyMet. I was at the hearing on it in Duluth. Where has he been on the issue? Not taking a real stand. I say indifference is hostility,” Seifert said.
The PolyMet nonferrous proposed mine near Babbitt and processing plant near Hoyt Lakes would be Minnesota’s first copper-nickel mining operation. The project would create 360 new permanent jobs, hundreds more spin-off positions and more than 2 million hours of construction work.
It has already received about nine years of environmental review. Officials are currently responding to thousands of statements received during the 90-day public comment on the SDEIS. Once there is a determination of adequacy made on the SDEIS by the regulatory agencies permits can be issued, construction started and the road to production and paychecks cleared.
Seifert is in essentially a three-candidate race for the GOP endorsement for governor, which will be decided at the party state convention next Saturday in Rochester.
The other two Republicans with a serious chance at the endorsement are state Rep. Kurt Zellers of the Minneapolis area, who was House speaker from 2011-2012 when the GOP held the majority, and Twin Cities businessman Scott Honour.
Seifert said it’s “very likely” he will be in an August primary whether he gets the endorsement or not because the other major candidates have said they will run in a primary. “I’ll make my mind up on that the morning of the convention.”
Seifert said he believes either he will get the endorsement or it will be a deadlocked convention. “But I think they (delegates) will want to have an endorsed candidate.
Seifert said he has more extensive life experiences that his two intra-party opponents.
“Zellers is all government. Honour is all business. I’ve been a farmer, teacher, in higher education, in small business and spent 14 years in the Legislature. That’s a good mixture and appreciation for both public and private sectors,” he said.
DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin, in an interview with the MDN a few weeks ago, said Republican candidates come to the Range “... and say they will do this and that. But they do nothing for the people of the Iron Range.”
Seifert bristled at Martin’s contention and fired back.
“I would say, ‘What has Mark Dayton done for the Iron Range?’ A new chalet for the ski resort?,” he said, referring to the recent bonding bill and Dayton’s support for more than $4 million for a new events center at the Giants Ridge Golf & Ski Resort.
“I don’t know what he’s done. Certainly nothing for the hundreds and hundreds of new mining jobs.”
Seifert said Dayton is “just taking the people of the Iron Range for granted. But I think the people are a lot smarter than to be fooled by this governor on mining. This is the very lifeblood of the area. It’s about jobs and schools and the Range’s future.”
Seifert also said his life story should connect with the people of the Iron Range more than Dayton’s.
“I’ve belonged to two unions. I love fishing, guns, mining and timber ... I have an affinity to rural issues. I’m a hard-working guy ... and I wasn’t raised by nannies.
“And I’m the only guy from rural Minnesota running in either party for governor,” Seifert said.