Absent competitive endorsement races, state DFL focuses on accomplishments

Published 9:15 am Monday, June 2, 2014

By Christopher Magan

Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

DULUTH — On a rainy day in Duluth, Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party members celebrated what they branded as a bright new era of progressivism shining across Minnesota.

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“This is a great time to be a Democrat in Minnesota,” Gov. Mark Dayton said in his speech at the party’s convention accepting the endorsement to run for re-election as governor. “It’s a great time to stand up proudly for all we have accomplished.”

DFLers cheered their accomplishments while in total control of state government. In the past two years, they’ve legalized gay marriage and medical marijuana, raised the minimum wage and increased taxes to balance the state budget only to cut taxes when there was a surplus. They also put a half-billion dollars of new money into education by funding things such as all-day kindergarten and scholarships for preschool.

“These last legislative sessions were one of the most remarkable in a generation,” Ken Martin, chair of the DFL, told party members Saturday at the start of the event at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

State Rep. Steve Simon of Hopkins won the only competitive race of the day by beating out state Rep. Debra Hilstrom of Brooklyn Center to get the party endorsement for secretary of state. Mark Ritchie holds that office and decided not to run again, but he told delegates he didn’t plan to end his career in public service.

Simon won the endorsement before the results of the first ballot were revealed after Hilstrom bowed out. Both Simon and Hilstrom said they would fight against what they characterized as Republicans’ anticipated efforts to limit voting rights.

“What the name of the game here for all Minnesotans is ballot access,” Simon said in his acceptance speech.

Delegates heard from party favorites such as U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who said Washington, D.C., politicians could learn something from Minnesota’s productive DFL lawmakers.

In introducing her colleague, U.S. Sen. Al Franken, Klobuchar said he worked tirelessly on behalf of Minnesotans.

“Al has never, never stopped fighting for the people of Minnesota,” Klobuchar said. “Even in Washington’s deep freeze, Al gets things done.”

In his speech accepting the DFL endorsement, Franken highlighted his work to fund mental health services in schools and keep college affordable, and his opposition to the merger of cable giants Comcast and Time Warner.