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Democrats to set stage for 'important' election

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz and Minnesota Rep. Peggy Flanagan talk about their campaign for governor and lieutenant governor Thursday, May 31, 2018. Don Davis / Forum News Service

ROCHESTER, Minn. — Every election year comes the same rote statement: "It is the most important election in a generation."

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton admits that is a cliche. But, this time at least, he said it is true.

"I'm not running for office, but I think this is the most important election in my time," said Dayton, who early in January will leave public life after more than 40 years in politics.

That is what he plans to tell fellow Democrats when he speaks to their state convention in Rochester on Saturday, June 2.

Dayton said the state should not let Republicans take control.

It may take a good pep talk for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party to win on Nov. 6. Its members tend not to vote in as large numbers as Republicans in years when there is no presidential race.

However, Democrats and Republicans alike say GOP President Donald Trump will spur more voters to the polls.

For Democrats, it will be a deep dislike of Trump politics and his personality.

"The one thing that is unmistakable is there is an energy that we haven't seen in Democratic politics on over a decade," DFL Chairman Ken Martin said. "There is a lot of new energy, people who never have been involved before."

The chairman said that in most state conventions, at least 75 percent of the people have attended before. At the Rochester Mayo Convention Center this weekend, however, Martin expects just half to be state convention veterans.

"If there is any silver lining in Donald Trump being president ... it would be that has galvanized our party and created all of this new energy," Martin said.

That could lead to more unpredictability than what normally is a pretty unpredictable DFL convention.

About 1,300 delegates will begin deliberation Friday night, June 1, by picking a secretary of state candidate (incumbent Steve Simon is the odds-on favorite) and two U.S. Senate candidates. Amy Klobuchar is expected to easily win her endorsement.

Tina Smith, appointed to the Senate early this year to replace Al Franken when he resigned, faces Republican-turned-Democrat Richard Painter, whose name may not be put up for endorsement. He is expected to challenge Smith in the Aug. 14 primary election.

On Saturday, besides the Dayton farewell speech, delegates are to endorse other statewide candidates, including for governor.

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, state Rep. Erin Murphy and State Auditor Rebecca Otto are the major DFL governor candidates.

Murphy has received a number of endorsements in recent days, mostly from unions, which could be cutting into the lead many observers feel Walz has enjoyed. Otto's campaign manager, meanwhile, left the campaign days before the convention, raising questions about how that could affect the outcome.

"The governor's race probably is much tighter than many people imagine," Martin said.

Walz predicted Thursday that he will receive more first-ballot votes than contested Democratic governor endorsements have seen in decades, but did not predict a quick victory.

Jess Nyman of the Murphy campaign, meanwhile, said Murphy is gaining momentum, both from union endorsements and those from Duluth Mayor Emily Larson and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter.

"Erin is building the broadest coalition of support — far more diverse than the support of her DFL opponents," Nyman wrote to supporters.

Delegates will try something new this year: voting electronically. Martin said each delegate will have a "clicker" that will send a vote via radio signal to a central device that will tally results. Since it is using radio waves, Martin said, the system cannot be hacked like a computer could.

Candidates must receive 60 percent of the vote to be endorsed, so races with several candidates usually result in several ballots.

Martin said he expects up to 3,500 to attend the convention.

Democrats expect to spend much of Sunday debating issues they want folded into their party platform.

Republicans plan to meet Friday night and Saturday in Duluth, then head home.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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