(WASHINGTON) -- In an election year dominated by polarized politics, candidates staking out the middle ground haven't gained much momentum with voters. But in Minnesota, an independent candidate for governor is bucking the trend.
Tom Horner, a 60-year-old public relations executive who's never held office, has overcome virtual obscurity among voters in recent weeks and surged in the polls to position himself as a viable third-party contender.
Although Horner trails Democrat Mark Dayton and Republican Tom Emmer by double digits, his support has climbed steadily to around 17 percent of likely voters. Aides say the steady flow of campaign donations and endorsements from prominent state moderates are signs his candidacy is on the rise.
Polls show large numbers of Minnesota voters remain undecided about their choice for governor, and neither Dayton nor Emmer has broken out with a clear majority. The situation reflects moderate voters' relative distaste for their choices, experts say.
Independent candidates in the last two gubernatorial elections failed to gain traction with voters.
Those skeptical of Horner's chances say it will be more interesting to see from which opponent he draws more votes.
Minnesota is one of two states where the independent candidate for governor has been surging in the polls this year. Former Rhode Island Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee is building momentum to become his state's first independent governor.
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