The Teamsters Local 120 union – the largest Teamsters local in the state and the fifth largest in the country – is backing Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak for governor, even though he hasn’t officially put his name in the race.
The union, which represents 14,000 members, supports Rybak because they are most confident in his chances for wining a statewide election, union officials said.
Rybak is currently seeking a third term as mayor of Minneapolis, but said he hasn’t ruled out a run for governor in 2010.
Supporting Rybak wasn’t an easy decision, however, as the union has other friends and allies that have officially announced their candidacy for the state’s top position, Brad Slawson Jr., president of the local union, said.
“Many of the candidates in the running are good friends of ours and have worked on issues with us at the
Capitol,” Slawson said. “But we feel that Rybak has the best chance in a statewide run.”
Draft R.T. Rybak for Governor, a grassroots organization collecting petition signatures to convince Rybak to run, hopes to collaborate with the union in their work to elect Rybak.
“[The union is] extremely active and one thing the Teamsters bring to an operation is people power,” John Sylvester, vice chair of Draft R.T. Rybak for Governor, said. “If you ask them to help with an event they are incredibly supportive that way.”
The organization, which started in July, has already garnered the signatures of 2,500 people who want Rybak to run for governor.
“It’s growing exponentially,” Sylvester said. “It was difficult to get the first couple of hundred signatures, but once we started having meetings and going to events it really exploded.”
The organization is also looking to another group to help its support of Rybak: students.
Students to Draft R.T. Rybak for Governor officially registered as a University of Minnesota student group last week. Their mission is to help gather petition signatures in support of Rybak running, Garrett Peterson, a graduate student in the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and president of the group, said.
Down the road, if Rybak officially joins the race, Peterson hopes that their group can morph into one that will create support for his campaign.
“I think that he has shown amazing leadership in Minneapolis in terms of balancing the budget and paying debt here,” Peterson said. “That’s going to be a big issue moving forward: fixing the structural budget problem in the state.”