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State Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, announces his candidacy for governor at Bayfront Park Monday afternoon during the annual AFL-CIO Labor Day picnic. Bob King/rking@duluthnews.com

Rukavina will run for governor

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Rukavina will run for governor
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State Rep. Tom Rukavina would have announced his run for governor on the stage at the AFL-CIO Labor Day picnic in Duluth Monday.

But organizers wouldn't let gubernatorial candidates speak.

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Undaunted, Rukavina moved his entourage of 30 people to the edge of the picnic at Bayfront Festival Park and made it official.

Calling himself the candidate with compassion for working people, the outspoken Rukavina from Virginia says he is running because the state is hurting and needs innovative ideas.

"I have a lot of moxie that will carry that compassion," Rukavina said as he joined a crowded field of candidates. "I want to help the people of Minnesota."

Rukavina wasn't the only gubernatorial candidate --both announced and unannounced -- not allowed to speak. Others in attendance were St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, former state Rep. Matt Entenza of St. Paul, former state Sen. Steve Kelley of Hopkins and state Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook.

"We had one hour of speeches and too many local candidates," explained Al Netland, president of the Duluth AFL-CIO Central Labor Body that sponsors the annual picnic. Besides, the local chapter doesn't make endorsements for governor. That's done by the statewide AFL-CIO, he said.

Coleman, who was finishing up two days of stops in the Northland, took it in stride as well -- as Rukavina capturing the spotlight for a time.

"It's all about sharing our differing vision with the state," Coleman said. "But as Democrats I think we all value education and job creation."

Indeed, Rukavina said education and job creation are priorities. He also believes the state must be competitive and create jobs to get out of the recession.

He chose to announce on Labor Day because, he said, "This is the day that honors working people."

From a distance, Polly John of Duluth watched Rukavina begin his bid for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party nomination for governor in 2010.

"I think it's fine," John said. A Labor Day picnic-goer for 20 years, she says politics is part of the picnic.

"There's a lot of political people down here, a lot of shaking hands," said John, who wore several candidate stickers on her shirt. "That's what this day is all about -- labor and families and politics and free food."

That Rukavina, who is serving his 12th state House term, was contemplating a run for governor was no surprise. He had filed paperwork in July allowing him to explore running.

"I wanted to see what kind of support I would get," he said. "And I found support everywhere."

What does he think his chances are?

"They elected Rudy Perpich and Tim Pawlenty, and I can't be any worse than them," he said with a laugh.

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