Coleman could eye governor run next

Published 9:15 am Thursday, July 2, 2009

The man who lost the 1998 Minnesota governor’s race to pro wrestler Jesse Ventura now holds the distinction of losing his U.S. Senate seat to former “Saturday Night Live” comedian Al Franken.

But it’s a testament to Norm Coleman’s political durability that just a day after he conceded the contest and gave Democrats a filibuster-proof Senate majority, many GOP insiders consider him an automatic front-runner if he enters the 2010 race to replace Republican Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

“He’d be the 800-pound gorilla in the Republican field, no doubt about it,” said Annette Meeks, a former officer with the Minnesota GOP and one-time aide to Newt Gingrich.

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One former Coleman adviser has heard the former senator has had at least preliminary discussions about running for governor in 2010.

“My understanding is that he is actively exploring with the Republican faithful what his prospects are,” said Tom Horner, a public relations executive who advised Coleman in his 1998 gubernatorial bid.

Pundits warned for months that Coleman’s lengthy legal challenge could damage his political career beyond repair. It also threatened to force a tough call on Pawlenty, whose May announcement that he wouldn’t seek re-election cleared the way for a possible 2012 presidential bid.

Speculation circled about whether Pawlenty would have to decide between seating Franken or holding out amid further legal appeals from fellow Republican Coleman. Coleman’s concession following a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling in Franken’s favor made the point moot, allowing Pawlenty to sign Franken’s election certificate blame-free.

Several Republicans said Coleman improved his standing with the GOP base by fighting to the end as Franken’s victory seemed an increasingly foregone conclusion.