ROCHESTER, Minn. — The governor race is far and away the top political suspense at Minnesota party conventions this weekend, and at the Democratic event they were on the ground by midday Friday, June 1.
Governor candidate and State Auditor Rebecca Otto released figures that she said shows she has enough support to compete with U.S. Rep. Tim Walz and state Rep. Erin Murphy.
Otto wore her best smile while talking to delegates and others at the convention, which started at 4:06 p.m. Friday and was expected to draw 3,500 people before it ends Sunday.
Murphy did the same, working the early crowd to win over what was thought to be many undecided delegates.
Chairman Ken Martin of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party said he thinks the three-person governor race may be close.
Many thought Walz, who serves southern Minnesota in the U.S. House, held a comfortable lead. But Murphy in recent days has picked up a number of endorsements and Otto’s Friday release of internal figures was meant to counter talk about the strength of the other two candidates.
Political commentator Blois Olson reminded readers of his Morning Take newsletter that regardless of who may appear to lead the governor’s race before votes are taken, it still is wide open.
“Recent history in both parties’ long battles started with candidates under 30 percent being endorsed,” he wrote.
In 2010, when Mark Dayton decided to sit out the endorsement process, Margaret Anderson Kelliher had 27 percent on the first ballot of a five-way Democratic endorsement. R.T. Rybak had 21 percent. Kelliher got the party endorsement, but Dayton beat her in the primary and went on to serve two terms in the governor’s office.
“Rybak’s campaign shows a lot of similarities to Walz,” Olson write. “A populist, leading in fundraising and the ‘perceived’ front-runner.”
Simon endorsed again
Minnesota Democrats endorsed Steve Simon for a second two-year term as secretary of state, whose offices runs state elections and records business records.
With no opponents, Simon was a unanimous pick Friday.
“I’m in the democracy business.” Simon said of his election duties. “And that’s a hard business right now, because every day our democracy is under attack from dangerous forces, both foreign and domestic.”
Simon said that Minnesota should enact “true early voting,” start pre-registering high school students, restore voting rights to more than 50,000 former prisoners and invest more in cyber-security.
Lawmaker in video
There is a lot of dancing after a state political convention adjourns for the night, but most Minnesota Democrats do not have the chance that state Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minneapolis, recently enjoyed.
Omar, the country’s first Somali-American elected official, joined big name stars such as Jennifer Lopez and Ellen DeGeneres in the Maroon 5 music video “Girl Like You.” She appears briefly in the main part of the video, as well as at the end with the entire cast.
Simon looks west
Secretary of State Steve Simon found his campaign chairman in North Dakota.
Simon announced he hired Robert Haider, who was executive director of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party.
“Robert is going to help us defend democracy in every community across Minnesota,” Simon said.
Eyes on Minnesota
Martin opened the convention by telling delegates that the eyes of the country will be on Minnesota, with an open governor’s seat, two U.S. Senate elections and several competitive U.S. House contests.
“Minnesota is going top be the epicenter of the 2018 elections …” Martin declared. “We truly have more targeted races on the ballot in Minnesota than anywhere else in the country.”
The chairman also gave delegates advice.
“There is so much I can say about the damage Republicans are doing to our state and country, … but we are not just going to win by being against the Republicans,” Martin said.