ROCHESTER, Minn. — Erin Murphy left the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party convention as its endorsed candidate for governor, but her job is only beginning.
She will face U.S. Rep. Tim Walz and maybe others in the Aug. 14 primary election.
Delegates on Saturday, June 2, gave the state representative from St. Paul unanimous support, but only after Walz withdrew from the endorsement process. He said he plans to run in the primary.
DFL observers speculated that Attorney General Lori Swanson could opt into the governor primary, too, after she withdrew from the attorney general endorsement race after missing 60 percent support on the first ballot.
While Walz is expected to field a well-financed primary campaign, party Chairman Ken Martin said the DFL will put its full supporter behind Murphy.
Murphy made no mention of Walz when she spoke to delegates after she won the endorsement.
“Together, we are unstoppable,” Murphy told fellow DFLers.
Later, she told reporters she will go after expected Republican governor candidate former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, but said she would emphasize her vision of the future.
“I cannot wait to take on Tim Pawlenty,” Murphy proclaimed.
Murphy’s route to the endorsement was a bit different.
The first ballot Saturday afternoon had Walz with 42.5 percent, Murphy with 39.6 percent and State Auditor Rebecca Otto with 18.5 percent.
Murphy took the lead on the second ballot, as Otto dropped and some of her votes went to Murphy.
Otto said she will take the weekend to decide her next steps. She could run in the governor primary, or even jump into the race to keep her auditor’s job. Democrats are to endorse for that position Sunday.
Late Saturday afternoon, Walz and Otto walked onto the convention floor, encouraging delegates to vote for “no endorsement,” to prevent Murphy from getting the nod.
The two candidates stood in front of the stage discussing the situation, a very public venue with delegates and media recording it.
Murphy totaled 58.7 percent of the vote, to 38.7 percent for no endorsement, before Walz announced he was dropping out of the endorsement race.
Martin and Murphy indicated the party is united even though Walz remains in campaign mode.
“I want us to march out together and win this election and to defeat Tim Pawlenty,” Murphy said.
In her acceptance speech, Murphy rattled off most prime DFL topics, to the cheers of 1,300 delegates and about the same number of guests.
In her speech, Murphy criticized corporate actions.
“Corporate control is denying people health care,” said Murphy, who has worked as nurse.
She also said Minnesotans should “make sure that our hard work pays by protecting collective bargaining.”
Murphy started her governor campaign about a year and a half ago. She was House Democratic leader and is a registered nurse.
Walz served in the National Guard 24 years and was a geography teacher in Mankato until he was elected to the U.S. House.
Otto has been state auditor 12 years, after serving in the Minnesota House.
With the endorsement raising questions, Martin took to the microphone to push for an endorsement.
“Our (party) constitution is very clear,” Martin said, and an endorsement is required.
Martin tried to rally party members by saying “we may be on different teams today, but we are all DFLers.”
Saturday’s dust-up in the DFL convention is not a first.
In 2010, the DFL chairman at the time banned Mark Dayton from the convention floor because he was not seeking the party convention’s endorsement, and planned to go ahead and run in the primary. In the primary, Dayton’s well-financed campaign beat endorsed candidate Margaret Anderson Kelliher and he eventually won two terms.
For Republicans, former Gov. Pawlenty did not seek endorsement this weekend, saying he would challenge the endorsed candidate on Aug. 14. The GOP convention in Duluth endorsed Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson Saturday.
Democrats left no doubt through their convention that they expect Pawlenty to be the Republican primary winner, and took every opportunity to attack him.
“I was a school teacher when Tim Pawlenty decimated the schools,” Walz said.
Walz also told delegates that in 2004 President George W. Bush visited Mankato and “kicked my students out of a rally.” He said that angered him so much that he ran for Congress, and won.
“The bad news for Tim Pawlenty is,” Walz added, is that he is mad again.
And in a statement, the Walz campaign added: “This November, the stakes are high. We cannot risk letting Tim Pawlenty anywhere near the governor’s office ever again.”