By Don Davis
The Republican U.S. Senate endorsement came down to money vs. party tradition.
Mike McFadden, the moneyed candidate, won.
Candidate Chris Dahlberg had about $40,000 in his campaign bank account and led through the first eight state convention ballots. McFadden, who said he immediately can put $2 million into Republicans’ effort to unseat U.S. Sen. Al Franken, came from behind to beat Dahlberg at Saturday’s GOP state convention.
On the convention’s 10th ballot, McFadden got more than the 60 percent vote requirement and Dahlberg conceded.
“I look forward to taking the fight to Al Franken,” a hoarse McFadden said nearly a day after the Senate balloting process began.
McFadden, a wealthy Twin Cities businessman in his first campaign, said he is not the usual type of candidate. He said he has 20 years’ experience creating jobs.
McFadden is the candidate Democrats appear to most fear, and they quickly criticized him.
“From the day he jumped into the Senate race, Minnesotans have known that investment banker Mike McFadden has a record of making millions on business deals that in many cases cost American workers their jobs,” Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chairman Ken Martin said.
Martin said that McFadden won the endorsement only after right-wing U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann endorsed him.
Within the Republican Party, the remaining question was whether McFadden will be alone on the Aug. 12 primary election ballot. State Rep. Jim Abeler was forced out of endorsement competition Friday when he could not reach the threshold of votes to continue.
Before the convention he pledged to run in the primary regardless of the convention outcome; after the convention, Abeler’s intentions were unclear.
McFadden said it did not matter if another Republican faced him in the primary. In nearly a year since he announced he was running, he has focused on Franken, not other Republicans, he said.
The McFadden-Dahlberg race had turned into a virtual tie Saturday morning after state convention delegates resumed balloting they suspended at 2 a.m. Dahlberg had led in previous ballots.
Balloting began Friday afternoon at Rochester’s Mayo Civic Center and ended early Saturday afternoon after 15 hours of campaign speeches and voting.
McFadden said money is the key to beating Franken.
“You have to be able to raise money …” he said. “I worked my tail off to raise money. You support me and we will have $2 million to train on Al Franken on Monday.”
“Some people say it is all about the money,” Dahlberg told the convention Saturday, echoing earlier comments that his ability to attract independents and Democrats is more important.
Once a candidate gets the endorsement, he added, money will follow.
Dahlberg emphasized that he would abide by convention delegates’ decision on a candidate, while McFadden all long has said he will run in the Aug. 12 primary election.
Dahlberg, a St. Louis County commissioner and Army veteran, said the key to winning in November is a united party, not money.
“This is about boots on the ground, this is not about throwing money at it,” Dahlberg told delegates.
State Sen. Julianne Ortman was removed from the endorsement ballot Friday when she failed to reach a 20 percent support threshold.
In the meantime, Franken was in Duluth receiving the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party endorsement unopposed.