Don Samuels’ mayoral campaign attracts Republican money

DFLer Don Samuels’ campaign for mayor of Minneapolis is drawing support from an unlikely group of donors: Republicans.

Samuels has received contributions from two former state Republican Party chairmen, a former Republican governor, a former federal prosecutor who served in the George W. Bush administration and Bush’s 2004 Minnesota campaign manager.

Minneapolis mayoral candidate Don Samuels unveils his education plan on the steps of Harvest Preparatory School, a Minneapolis charter school. (MPR Photo/Curtis Gilbert)

“The reason that Don Samuels has been so effective, and I think he has been an effective city councilman, is his ability to bring together people from all political stripes, all economic stripes, all racial stripes,” said former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger, who normally gives to Republican candidates.

Heffelfinger has been impressed with Samuels’ work as chair of the city’s Public Safety Committee. Samuels is also an advocate for charter schools, a popular cause for Republicans.

Ben Whitney, who headed up the 2004 Bush/Cheney campaign in Minnesota, says he supports Samuels’ stance on education.

“It’s an attitude — an attitude that we can do better, and an attitude that we have to and we will,” Whitney said. “That’s not something that you can say about the politicians in Minneapolis, and that to me is a great tragedy.”

Whitney serves on the advisory board for the education reform group MinnCan along with former Republican Governor Al Quie, who also donated money to Samuels.

Samuels’ donors also include former Republican Party Chairman Bill Cooper, one of the state’s biggest charter school boosters. Cooper chairs Friends of Education, which oversees 17 of the state’s 151 charters. Former GOP chairman Ron Eibensteiner and his wife Laurie contributed to Samuels’ campaign as well.

“I have a rational, objective, results-oriented approach to things. Sometimes that appeals to people across party lines,” Samuels said.

Samuels’ Republican donations are all the more notable, because there is actually a Republican candidate in the mayor’s race — Cam Winton. But Cooper, Eibensteiner, Quie and Heffelfinger didn’t write checks to Winton, whose fundraising lagged many of his DFL rivals. Only Whitney contributed to both Samuels and Winton.

“I’ve received great support across the spectrum and I’m thrilled with where things stand in the campaign,” said Winton, who declined to say whether he sought contributions from the Republicans supporting Samuels.

Samuels isn’t the only DFL candidate with big-name Republican support. Mark Andrew counts Whitney’s father Wheelock among his donors, as well as Stanley Hubbard, CEO of Hubbard Broadcasting. Hubbard also contributed to Winton’s campaign.