All three leading DFL candidates for Minnesota governor are seeking the party's endorsement in Rochester on Saturday, a race that could determine whether Democrats coalesce early around one candidate or head into a competitive primary election.
The contest is between U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, State Auditor Rebecca Otto and St. Paul state Rep. Erin Murphy.
The Democrats have come to appreciate the power of the governor's office, with current DFL Gov. Mark Dayton blocking many policies pushed by the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Democrats are desperate to maintain that level of power, especially with the chance that Republicans could retain control of the Legislature this fall.
But after the 2016 election, party activists are battling internally over whether they want to endorse a candidate with progressive bona fides to turn out the base, or if they should find someone who can win back moderate and rural voters they lost in the last cycle.
Murphy, a nurse by trade, has spent the last 12 years in the state House representing St. Paul, including two years as majority leader. She's spent years going from district to district to help elect other Democrats to the House, but now she's traveling the state for herself, trying to stack up support in a bid for governor. In the weeks leading up to the convention, she's lined up plenty of endorsements from unions and the more progressive wing of the party, including the Minnesota Nurses Association, OutFront Minnesota and AFSCME Council 5.
Otto served one term in the Minnesota House before running for Minnesota state auditor in 2006. After three terms as auditor, she's seeking the governor's office, arguing she's the only candidate in the race who has won statewide. She's running on a platform of policy positions, from creating a state bank to taxing carbon emissions to create clean energy jobs. She's earned the backing of groups like Our Revolution (which co-endorsed Murphy), an offshoot of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.
Walz was a geography teacher living in Mankato in 2006 when he decided to run for a conservative-leaning congressional seat in southern Minnesota. He won that race, but now he's trying to trade his view of the U.S. Capitol for the Minnesota Capitol, arguing his record in Washington and his experience winning over rural voters in southern Minnesota position him best to win statewide this year. He's lined up endorsements from some big-hitters in his pursuit, including Education Minnesota and former Vice President Walter Mondale.
Minnesota will have not one, but two races for the United States Senate on the ballot this fall, but only one was supposed to be up this cycle.
That's the seat held by Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat who was first elected to the Senate in 2006. There are no major Democrats registered to run against Klobuchar, who is expected to be endorsed by acclamation at the convention in Rochester of Friday.
Klobuchar was a two-term Hennepin County attorney before she snagged the DFL endorsement and won the race for U.S. Senate in 2006. Since then, she's grown considerably more popular in the state, winning a second term with more than 65 percent of the vote. She's also considered a rising star in her party and has been mentioned as a potential candidate for president in 2020.
That unexpectedly threw his seat into the mix this fall, a race that's expected to draw national attention and millions of dollars of outside spending. On the DFL side, U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, who was appointed to the seat after Franken resigned, is running to serve the remaining two years of Franken's term and expected to get the backing of Democrats over the weekend. She's being challenged for the endorsement by Nick Leonard, a DFL activist and attorney.
The endorsed candidate will face a primary challenge in August from Richard Painter, a former Republican and ethics attorney with a national profile who switched parties to run for the seat.
For years, Smith operated behind the scenes in DFL politics, helping elect Democrats to office and serving as the chief of staff of former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and eventually Dayton. She became a politician in her own right after the 2014 election when she ran as Dayton's lieutenant governor. In January, Dayton appointed her to the U.S. Senate after the unexpected resignation of Franken. Now, she's defending that seat on her brief record in Washington, positioning herself as a progressive on issues like gun control and immigration.
Painter spent most of his life as a Republican and served in the administration of George W. Bush as his chief ethics counsel. But in the era of President Trump, Painter has left the Republican Party and gained a national profile for his criticism of the Trump administration. Now he's now running as a Democrat for the Senate on an anti-Trump platform and is seeking the party's endorsement but also heading to a primary.
Leonard is a little-known DFL activist and attorney from Minneapolis who is making a run at the party's endorsement over the weekend. He's positioning himself against Smith as the "true progressive" in the race and highlighting the fact that he could be the first openly gay man elected to the United States Senate.
by Briana Bierschbachvia twitter6/1/2018 3:29:54 PM
Live coverage of the Minnesota DFL and GOP conventions coming up from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on MPR News and online at mprnews.org
by Andrew Krueger, MPR News6/1/2018 3:55:09 PM
.@MPRnews is hosting a live show from the DFL conventions in Rochester and Duluth for the next two hours. I'll be tweeting interesting tidbits from the interviews with candidates/party leaders
by Briana Bierschbachvia twitter6/1/2018 4:07:14 PM
DFL Party Chair Ken Martin said since the party was started in 1944 there has always been an endorsement for statewide offices coming out of the convention
by Briana Bierschbachvia twitter6/1/2018 4:10:07 PM
.@MPRnews is hosting a live show from the DFL and GOP conventions in Rochester and Duluth for the next two hours. I'll be tweeting interesting tidbits from the interviews with candidates/party leaders
by Briana Bierschbachvia twitter6/1/2018 4:11:14 PM
"Minnesota is the epicenter of the 2018 midterm elections," DFL Chair Martin said. Two U.S. Senate seats on the ballot, open gov race, multiple competitive congressional seats. "All of that together is going to drive turnout."
by Briana Bierschbachvia twitter6/1/2018 4:12:53 PM
by Briana Bierschbachvia twitter6/1/2018 4:17:23 PM
DFL governor candidate Erin Murphy said she would consider running in a primary only if there is no endorsement, but she believes the delegates will make an endorsement tomorrow
by Briana Bierschbachvia twitter6/1/2018 4:19:03 PM
Rep. Erin Murphy said she will have a strong showing on the first ballot for governor but admits the endorsement process is "going to take awhile."
by Briana Bierschbachvia twitter6/1/2018 4:20:23 PM
DFL U.S. Senate candidate Nick Leonard, who is running against Sen. Tina Smith for the endorsement, said he's running because he felt the "progressive voice was not fully being heard." Said he's more progressive on enviro, healthcare and campaign finance issues
by Briana Bierschbachvia twitter6/1/2018 4:35:14 PM
Blasting in the background from the DFL convention hall: The Pointer Sisters "I'm So Excited"
by Briana Bierschbachvia twitter6/1/2018 4:36:54 PM
by Briana Bierschbachvia twitter6/1/2018 7:49:59 PM
The DFL balloting rules: candidates must hit 5% on the first ballot, 10% on the subsequent ballot and so forth to a max of 25% to stay in race. Starting after the 5th ballot, "the lowest remaining candidates will be dropped so that no more than two candidates remain."
by Briana Bierschbachvia twitter6/1/2018 8:15:57 PM
by Briana Bierschbachvia twitter6/1/2018 8:23:21 PM
DFL convention will start around 4 p.m. The abbreviated agenda:
-Electronic voting orientation -Adoption of the agenda -Endorsement for Secretary of State -Endorsement for U.S. Senate (Klobuchar seat) -Endorsement for U.S. Senate (Smith seat) -Recess until Saturday
by Briana Bierschbachvia twitter6/1/2018 8:30:07 PM
If you don't care about any of this, *please don't unfollow me*
by Briana Bierschbachvia twitter6/1/2018 8:35:27 PM
DFL convention is now underway in Rochester
by Briana Bierschbachvia twitter6/1/2018 9:06:59 PM
DFL Party Chair Ken Martin said to the crowd: "this weekend is a pivotal moment for our party and our ability to win." "This election can't just be about what we are against...we win by talking about our values."
by Briana Bierschbachvia twitter6/1/2018 9:19:18 PM
State DFL Chair Ken Martin in opening convention speech: "we're powered up and ready to win."
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon waiting for time of the convention stage. He's running for reelection and unopposed for the DFL endorsement. He says his speech is just over six minutes. https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Deo2UjoUEAAG7kV.jpg