Three famous sons and heir to a fortune battle in governor’s race

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Humphrey and Mondale. Names that dominated politics in Minnesota for decades.
But two sons of Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale account for only half the star quotient in the state’s hottest political contest in years. Add two more names — Freeman, son of a former governor, and Dayton, heir to a department store fortune — and you’ve got a race dubbed “My Three Sons and an Heir.”
The three sons seeking the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party’s gubernatorial nomination are Hubert Humphrey III, Ted Mondale and Mike Freeman, whose father, Orville Freeman, was President Kennedy’s agriculture secretary and Minnesota governor from 1955-61.
The heir is Mark Dayton, 51, whose family founded the department store that later became Dayton Hudson Corp.
Mondale is making his first bid for statewide office, while Freeman is the only one to have run for governor before; he withdrew before the 1994 primary when the party endorsed another candidate. Humphrey and Dayton both have lost bids for the U.S. Senate.
Humphrey, 55, is the state’s attorney general; Freeman, 49, is the Hennepin County prosecutor; Mondale, 40, has been a state senator; and Dayton, 51, has been state auditor.
Humphrey, whom recent polls are pegging as the favorite, is benefiting from publicity generated by his refusal to enter national settlement talks with the tobacco industry. Instead, Minnesota is the first state to go to trial against Big Tobacco to recoup money spent treating smoking-related illnesses.
Although Mondale has proven to be a formidable fund-raiser, Dayton has the deepest pockets: the family fortune has been estimated at well over $1 billion.
Dayton was the last of the four to agree to state spending limits in this race, this after spending nearly $7 million of his own money on a failed 1982 Senate bid.
While Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale had much in common — both represented Minnesota in the U.S. Senate, served as vice president and lost presidential races — the sons, ideologically at least, are far different.
Ted Mondale is fiscally conservative and has distanced himself from the party’s traditional labor base. Skip Humphrey is more of a party centrist, along with Freeman.
Dayton may be proposing the most liberal campaign plank of all: an $8 hourly minimum wage.
The lives of the three politicians’ sons have long been intertwined. Humphrey worked for Walter Mondale. Ted Mondale worked in Skip Humphrey’s state Senate office. And Freeman worked for both men’s fathers.
While all the candidates seem weary of the My Three Sons angle, it is Humphrey who balks the most. His father is one of the most quoted men in state politics, but his son speaks rarely of him, usually only when asked.
The four sons may have gotten to this point in different ways, but they agree on one thing: The DFL primary winner will face a well-funded Republican candidate with only seven weeks to regroup before Election Day.
“I say whoever wins the primary will be bruised, bloodied and broke,” Dayton said. “It’s probably the biggest obstacle that we collectively face.”