GOP Rep. Dean opens gubernatorial bid with health care focus

Published 8:13 am Friday, April 28, 2017

ST. PAUL — Republican state Rep. Matt Dean announced Thursday that he’s running for governor in 2018.

Nearly a dozen candidates are already in the running to replace Gov. Mark Dayton as both parties scramble to fill the seat after the two-term Democratic governor leaves office. But Dean is among the first top-tier Republican candidates.

A former House Majority Leader whose name is intertwined with health care policy debates, Dean made clear that health care — and his longstanding effort to abolish MNsure, the state’s insurance exchange under the federal health care overhaul — would be the central issue of his campaign.

Email newsletter signup

“This is a fundamental choice right now: Is Minnesota going to lead again in health care or are we going to keep following?” Dean said. “We can’t afford to keep following.”

The St. Paul Pioneer Press first reported Dean’s candidacy.

Health care has consumed Minnesota politics for nearly a year. Lawmakers rushed this winter to cobble together a financial rescue package for shoppers facing double-digit premium hikes for 2017, revisiting the issue last month with a $542 million plan to stabilize the marketplace and rates for 2018.

Dean said he has been mulling his bid for a year, when he started crisscrossing the state to talk about the woes of the Affordable Care Act and make inroads with the local Republican activists who will be critical to winning the Republican endorsement. Dean said he plans to abide by that endorsement, meaning he wouldn’t run in a primary if he doesn’t win it.

But the Republican field is only expected to grow. Among the possible candidates is House Speaker Kurt Daudt, who Dean challenged to lead the House when Republicans took back control of the chamber in 2014. Daudt has said he’s still weighing his own campaign, while Ramsey County Commissioner Blake Huffman and several lesser-known candidates have already launched bids.

On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Tim Walz entered the race last month. He joined state Reps. Erin Murphy and Tina Liebling, Auditor Rebecca Otto and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.