Minn. DFL convention convenes

Published 5:16 pm Saturday, May 31, 2014

DULUTH — Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party convened Saturday with delegates poised to endorse Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken for second terms.

Around 1,300 delegates gathered at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center to hear speakers praise the state’s Democratic elected officials for using their control of state government to champion their values.

They cited new laws to raise the state’s minimum wage, invest in public schools and infrastructure projects, and legalize gay marriage.

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Both Franken and Dayton were expected to easily win their party’s backing. It was a different story for Dayton four years ago, when the former U.S. senator skipped the endorsement process and went straight to the DFL primary, a decision that got him barred from the floor at the 2010 state convention.

Both Dayton and Franken went on to win narrow recount victories.

Several speakers stressed the importance of bringing out Democratic voters for the off-year general election in November, when Republicans are expected to make gains across the country.

Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, of Cook, warned that the party will be in “big trouble” if turnout falls below 50 percent.

“We cannot allow ourselves to take our foot off the pedal,” St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said.

A competitive race was brewing for the DFL endorsement for the open position of secretary of state. State Reps. Steve Simon, of St. Louis Park, and Debra Hilstrom, of Brooklyn Center, both sought the party’s backing to replace Democrat Mark Ritchie, who’s retiring as the state’s chief election officer. Former state Rep. Dan Severson, of Sauk Rapids, has the GOP endorsement.

Sign-waving Simon supporters staged a parade through the hall before the convention convened, while Hilstrom brochures were placed on every delegate’s table space.

State Auditor Rebecca Otto and Attorney General Lori Swanson, both seeking third terms, won easy voice votes for endorsement. The GOP-endorsed auditor candidate is former Long Lake Mayor Randy Gilbert. State Sen. Scott Newman, of Hutchinson, is the Republican attorney general candidate, while Brandan Borgos is running on the Independence Party ticket.