Dayton camp surprised by Ciresi defection

Mike Ciresi’s defection Tuesday from the Democrats to Independence Party Tom Horner’s camp caught the Mark Dayton campaign by surprise.
“Actually it surprises me,” Dayton’s running mate, Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon, DFL-Duluth, told me Tuesday afternoon. I was the first one to tell her of the defection.
“We had a fundraiser at the Ciresi firm very, very recently,” she said. “I’m not sure what’s influencing him at this time, but we have our base and we’re always sorry to lose people, if we have lost people. I don’t know if he always was supporting Horner or standing on the sidelines.”
Horner used a Capitol press conference with Ciresi to make the announcement. Ciresi ran for U.S. Senate in 2000 but lost to Dayton in the DFL primary. He toyed with running for the office when Dayton wasn’t seeking re-election, and later joined the race against GOP Sen. Norm Coleman, with DFLers siding with Al Franken.
At the Capitol press conference, Ciresi said, “Tom [Horner] is the most qualified to lead this state at this critical time in our history. I believe that he’ll lead us in a way that will bring people from all parts of the political spectrum together.”
As a lifelong Democrat, Ciresi said it can sometimes be difficult to stand up and endorse someone else. “But when the choice is so clear to this state,” Ciresi said, “it’s an easy choice.”
“I support [Horner] because I think his message is broader,” Ciresi added. “It’s more inclusive. And it’s more realistic with respect to where we sit in the 21st century.
“The issues that I feel most passionately about — education, health care, and job growth — are the issues where I think [Horner] speaks with more clarity than Mark Dayton does.”
While Ciresi is the highest Democrat defection to Horner, it won’t change the Dayton campaign, Prettner Solon said.
“We will continue to stay true to our principles and we think that fighting for fairness for the middle class and fighting to support our education system and preserving and creating jobs in Minnesota and fighting for seniors so that they can age with dignity are the things that most of the people in the state of Minnesota are also wanting,” she said.
“And we continue to stay focused on that message, working toward those progressive values for the state,” she said.
Horner is only polling 13 percent in a poll Prettner Solon cited, so the impact of Ciresi’s defection should be minimal.
“I think I’ve seen him losing ground in terms of the polls,” she said. “We understand the the only poll that counts is the one on Nov. 2. We’re not going to stop, we’re just going to continue carrying our message across the state and meeting with as many people as we can and talk to as many people as we can.”
Prettner Solon toured Senate District 4 with Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji, stopping at a bee equipment maker in Hackensack, meeting with tourism officials in Walker, and in Bemidji with senior citizens, touring the Headwaters Science Center and encouraging local DFL volunteers.