Bar owner joins governor’s race

by Bryce Haugen

You might find her at Stub & Herbs. But if Sue Jeffers, owner of the near-campus bar, gets her way, she’ll be moving to the governor’s mansion.

“Minnesota needs a new vision,” Jeffers said after a 12-hour shift. “And I’m it.”

Jeffers, a vocal critic of indoor smoking bans, was expected to announce her bid for governor today.

Formerly a Republican, Jeffers said she’s running as an independent because the two main political parties look too much alike. Although she hasn’t yet been endorsed, Jeffers was expected get the Libertarian Party of Minnesota’s support.

“I think she’s a very credible candidate,” said Rex Johnson, the party’s treasurer. “She has the knowledge, she has the wherewithal and the dedication to seek the governorship and win.”

He said Minnesota is more open to the idea of third-party candidates than other states and that should bode well for her campaign.

Thus far, Jeffers’ most visible public role has been fighting the Hennepin County smoking ban, which was amended in December. She said she hopes to use her visibility as a springboard to higher office, noting that at 49, she doesn’t have “time to start at the bottom.”

Jeffers said she’s too straightforward for the usual “empty promises” of politics. She insists she will put “people before politics,” as her campaign Web site,, boasts.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has failed the state and his party, Jeffers said, frivolously spending public money and ignoring the important issues.

Mike Krueger, Pawlenty’s political director, said Jeffers’ claims are “just not credible.”

“(Pawlenty’s) done a lot to bring accountability to government in the last three years,” he said.

The Libertarian Party doesn’t have as strong a foothold in Minnesota as in other states, but Jeffers could end up having a serious impact on the campaign, said University political science professor Larry Jacobs. “If she can attract more than 5 percent of the vote, she could create a big problem for Pawlenty, since Libertarians typically glean votes from Republicans.

“That’s the threat ” not that she’s going to win, but that she’s going to pull a Nader,” he said, referring to the 2000 presidential election, when Democrats called third-party candidate Ralph Nader a spoiler.

Jacobs said a Libertarian candidate in Wisconsin’s recent gubernatorial election virtually handed the race to Democrat Jim Doyle.

University DFL President Max Page questioned that assessment. He said the political winds are shifting from Republicans nationally and a Democrat could win with at least 50 percent of the vote ” with or without Jeffers in the race.

“At this point I think it’s really hard to tell what’s going to happen,” Page said.

In an unscientific survey Saturday night at Stub & Herb’s, most people said they hadn’t heard of Jeffers’ plans. But several said they’d support her anyway.

Joan Eilers said she’d vote for Jeffers, whom she knows from weekly trivia games.

“What the hell,” Eilers said, puffing on a cigarette outside the bar. “I voted for Jesse (Ventura). That was interesting. Let’s keep it interesting.”