Minnesota Republicans are one small step closer in their race for a new GOP gubernatorial nominee. In an attempt to narrow the field, Republican Party activists conducted a straw poll at their annual convention. Out of a list of nine candidates, State Representative and former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert (R-Marshall) walked away as the clear front-runner with 37% of the votes. State Representative Tom Emmer (R-Delano) received 23% of the votes, and former State Auditor Pat Anderson and Senator David Hann (R-Eden Prairie) came in at third and fourth places, at 14% and 12% percent respectively.

Other candidates, collectively receiving the remaining 14% of the votes, included Representative Paul Kohls (R-Victoria), Senator Michael Jungbauer (R-East Bethel), former State Representative Bill Haas, party activist Phil Herwig, and environmentalist Leslie Davis.

Despite the sense of momentum already established, there are still rumors that others are contemplating throwing their hats into the ring: former U.S. Senator Norm Coleman, State Representative Laura Brod (R-New Prague), former U.S. Representative Jim Ramstad, and a number of notable names being thrown about from within Minnesota’s business community.

On the DFL side, Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman surprised everyone, including his staff members and political insiders, when he announced that he would not be running for governor, which would have diverted his attention from doing his current job as mayor. Coleman had already started assembling a campaign team, attended events around the state, and spread the word that he was “seriously considering a run for governor.” When he announced he was holding a press conference last Thursday, everyone expected to hear that he was filing his campaign papers and officially joining the already crowded race. Some have speculated that Coleman’s move was based on his desire to see the light-rail transit Central Corridor line to completion, while others think that a recent GOP complaint alleging he used mayoral campaign funds on a gubernatorial race without registering with the Campaign Finance Board would have tainted his campaign in its infancy.

Gubernatorial candidate and former House Minority Leader Matt Entenza also announced last week that he was willing to “spend whatever it takes” on his campaign, with estimates starting as low as $6 million. Entenza did say he would abide by the DFL endorsement process as long as the other candidates did the same. Former U.S. Senator Mark Dayton, however, said he would be willing to take his campaign through a primary if necessary.