DFL endorses Kelliher for gubernatorial election

Kelliher outlasted Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak to win the party endorsement.

Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher speaks after winning the DFL-Party endorsement on Saturday at the DFL Party Convention in Duluth.

Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher speaks after winning the DFL-Party endorsement on Saturday at the DFL Party Convention in Duluth.

Devin Henry

DULUTH, Minn. âÄî The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party endorsed Margaret Anderson Kelliher in the Nov. 2 gubernatorial election Saturday night. It took six ballots and nearly eight hours for the party delegation of more than 1,300 to whittle down a field of seven candidates and agree on Kelliher, the speaker of the House of Representatives. Kelliher won every ballot but didnâÄôt receive the 60-percent threshold needed to win the endorsement until at least the last ballot, the results of which were not made public. Her final victory came over Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. If elected Nov. 2, Kelliher would be MinnesotaâÄôs first female governor and the first DFLer to hold the position since Rudy Perpich in 1991. âÄúThe collaborative style that I bring to leadership is exactly what is needed in this state right now,âÄù Kelliher said to a contingent of delegates before the fifth ballot. âÄúWe do not need any more of the distractions that have been happening, so we have to get together here and make sure that the vision happens.âÄù Kelliher will now face a primary challenge in August from at least three other DFLers who bypassed the endorsement process, including former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, former state Rep. Matt Entenza and Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner. But Rybak, in his concession speech, called on that group to step aside so Kelliher could begin running directly against the candidate the Republican Party will endorse next weekend. âÄúThe stakes right now are too great for us to delay any longer,âÄù Rybak said. âÄúWe cannot be divided any longer.âÄù KelliherâÄôs victory came after hours of political wrangling that included a series of last-minute endorsements from gubernatorial candidates eliminated throughout the day, including Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, who lasted two ballots, and Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, who lasted four. Rukavina, whose fiery campaign speech earlier in the day captured enough votes to surprise even him and his campaign, called Kelliher the only remaining candidate to stand up for labor, one of the populist Iron Range lawmakerâÄôs biggest audiences. âÄúI was the best progressive in this race and thereâÄôs no damn doubt about it,âÄù he said in his concession speech. âÄúI want you to vote for the second best progressive in this race … IâÄôm going to vote for Margaret on the next ballot.âÄù Marty, a champion of a statewide single-payer health care plan, sided with Kelliher after she told him she would sign such a plan into law within two years of being elected governor. Kelliher, Rybak and Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, fought late for the support of reNEW Minnesota, a coalition of delegates making up about 10 percent of the convention. The group had agreed in January to vote as a bloc for one of those three at the convention. The candidates made a last pitch for their support during a half-hour-long recess before the fifth ballotâÄôs results were announced, but reNEW never came to a consensus on a candidate. Thissen dropped out after that ballot, and Kelliher declared victory at the end of the sixth. Students play a role Kelliher portrayed herself to the convention as a consensus-builder and highlighted her time working with and against the much-maligned Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Republicans in the Legislature. She brought up the HouseâÄôs 2008 override of PawlentyâÄôs veto of a $6.7 billion transportation bill to illustrate her ability to effectively pass legislation. âÄúI stare down the Republican right and come out with wins,âÄù she said. âÄú[Pawlenty] said, âÄòGo ahead and try [the override],âÄô and thatâÄôs exactly what I did.âÄù That type of leadership was what attracted University of Minnesota senior Sarah Clarke to her campaign. Clarke, a convention delegate, pointed to KelliherâÄôs diverse group of endorsements, ranging from a herd of lawmakers to former Vice President Walter Mondale, as a reason for her support. âÄúShe is the right candidate and this the right time,âÄù Clarke said. Dylan Kelly, a University graduate, attended his first DFL convention as an alternate delegate, supporting Marty. The convention is only the first step to winning the ultimate prize âÄî the governorâÄôs mansion in November, he said. âÄúThis is where ordinary people get to be a part of the process,âÄù Kelly said. Thomas Trehus, a University first-year who supported Thissen, agreed with Clarke about the important timing of the election. Trehus traveled to Duluth to be a delegate because he wanted to help elect the first DFL governor in his lifetime. âÄúIf there was ever a year to get involved, it would be this one,âÄù he said. âÄúItâÄôs really about endorsing the best and the one who can beat the Republican in November.âÄù But with fragmented party support ahead of a DFL primary battle in August, there will be less time for the Democratic candidate to campaign directly against the Republican. Minnesota Republican Party Deputy Chairman Michael Brodkorb attended the DFL convention as an observer. He said the DFLâÄôs lack of unity would be helpful to the sole Republican candidate his party will put its full weight behind next weekend. Republicans will meet Thursday through Saturday in Minneapolis and have two frontrunners for the nomination: Reps. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, and Tom Emmer, R-Delano. Both have agreed to drop out and avoid a primary election contest. But Trehus said the DFL primary will only help the partyâÄôs candidate prepare for the general election. âÄúIt will only improve our candidateâÄôs ability to beat the Republican in November,âÄù he said.