GOP Candidates Face Battle of the Unknowns in Race for Minn. Governor

Updated: 05/29/2014 7:39 AM
Created: 05/28/2014 7:00 PM
By: Tom Hauser

Republican candidates hoping to face off against Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton in November have to overcome a major obstacle first: themselves. 

According to new research done for 5 EYEWITNESS News by Frank Magid Associates, the leading GOP contenders are virtually unknown to a large percentage of Minnesotans.

Even former House Speaker Kurt Zellers and former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert suffer from low name recognition.  Seifert is "not familiar" to 43 percent of registered voters who participated in an online survey. Zellers is "not familiar" to 42 percent of respondents. 

The numbers are worse for the other three contenders: Jeff Johnson (60 percent), Dave Thompson (61 percent) and Scott Honour (65 percent). Remarkably, the numbers don't get much better among just Republican voters. Seifert is "not familiar" to 39 percent of respondents, Zellers 38 percent, Thompson 56 percent, Johnson 57 percent and Honour 60 percent.

"Almost half or more of Minnesotans, including Republicans, don't know the front runners in the (GOP) gubernatorial race or Senate race," says Larry Jacobs of the U of M Humphrey Institute.  "Job number one for the Republican field? Introduce themselves."

As for who is leading the GOP pack heading into the state convention this weekend, there is no clear consensus. Zellers is the first choice of 22 percent of Republicans, followed by Johnson at 19 percent, Honour at 15 percent, Seifert at 14 percent, Thompson at 9 percent.  A large percentage, 21 percent, are undecided.

Meanwhile, in hypothetical general election match-ups between Dayton and each GOP candidate, Dayton leads by between 12 and 17 points. The two closest potential match-ups are with Zellers (Dayton leads 47 percent to 35 percent) and Seifert (46 percent to 33 percent).

Our research is based on interviews with registered Minnesota voters conducted online from May 15-22, 2014.  The interviews included conventional survey questions along with photos of each candidate. Additionally, respondents were shown short video clips of the candidates discussing campaign issues.

Thursday on 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS at 10, we'll have a look at our new research on the U.S. Senate race.

This is all ahead of the GOP convention this weekend in Rochester. Reporter Jay Kolls will be in Duluth covering the DLF and reporter Tom Hauser will be in Rochester with the GOP.

Both parties will nominate their picks for governor, U.S. Senate and other state offices.

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