GOP Picks Statewide Candidates


Pat Anderson won Republican Party backing early today to return to her old job as Minnesota state auditor.

"Right now, every penny counts," Anderson told party convention delegates at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Anderson beat two other opponents after three ballots, when the convention unanimously voted to support her. In the first ballot, Anderson earned almost half of the delegates’ votes, and moved up to about the 60 percent needed for an endorsement in the next two ballots.

Anderson, of Dellwood, was ousted from the auditor’s office by Democrat Rebecca Otto four years ago.

Thursday night, she promised to look into two programs mostly affecting rural Minnesota: Local Government Aid and Job Opportunity Building Zones. She has been critical of both.

Challenger Tom Conlon, a long-time St. Paul school board member, pulled out of the race and threw his support behind Anderson in his nomination speech.

Also in the race were state auditor’s employee Jeff Wiita of Minnetonka and Long Lake Mayor Randy Gilbert.

Gilbert promoted himself as the only candidate with private experience. He called himself Minnesotans’ "first line of defense as your state auditor."

He warned against $15 billion in unfunded government pension liabilities across the state, such as in Duluth. He promised to put together a report showing where those problems are.

Witta told delegates that he is the only candidate in either major party who is a certified public accountant. He said no state auditor has been a CPA.

He would put private firms to work auditing local governments and shrink the auditor’s office, then he would propose a constitutional amendment to eliminate the auditor. He said the office needs to be taken out of politics.

The secretary of state and attorney general candidates were endorsed unanimously.

Anderson, who was elected to the state auditor’s office eight years ago with the last name Awada, was a governor candidate last year, but left that crowded field to seek her old job.

Anderson, who uses a large inflated bulldog as her mascot, says she favors limited government and would work to make government less intrusive.

Republicans endorsed for two other state offices.

The lone GOP candidate for attorney general is Chris Barden, who said the office has been in Democratic-Farmer-Laborite control for 40 years and it has become stagnant and in need of reform.

Barden, a University of Minnesota graduate with a Harvard law degree, said among his priorities is building a strong business climate, challenging federal health care reform, improving public safety and election reform.

He called it unhealthy and unwise to continue with the recently passed federal health plan.

"People will rise up … and stop the nationalization of our health care system," he said.

Democrat Lori Swanson is in her first term as attorney general.

State Rep. Dan Severson of Sauk Rapids, in his fourth term in the House, is the only GOP candidate for secretary of state. Democrat Mark Ritchie is the incumbent.

Severson is a former Navy pilot who says the state’s election system needs to be reformed.

"We are at war for democracy," Severson said.