Live Blog: DFL Convention in Duluth

by Devin Henry

Tom Rukavina, sporting a Kelliher campaign button, drops out of the Minnesota gubernatorial race at the DFL convention in Duluth on Saturday night. (Matt Mead, Daily)

Final Ballot – 11:15: It’s Kelliher.

R.T. Rybak dropped out before the results of the final ballot could be announced. Kelliher accepted the DFL party endorsement shortly thereafter.

“We must and can do better for Minnesotans and we are going to take our message all across the state,” Kelliher said.

Kelliher will now face a primary challenge from at least three other DFLers who bypassed the endorsement process, including former U.S. Senator 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 Republicans will endorse next weekend.

“The stakes right now are too great for us to delay any longer,” Rybak said. “We cannot be divided any longer.”

The convention emptied to the O’Jay’s “Love Train,” urging the party to “join hands.”

Update – 10:10: It’s a two-horse race.

Paul Thissen dropped out of the endorsement race after gaining just .1 percent more votes than the minimum amount required to continue to the next ballot. He did not endorse either of the remaining candidates.

In his concession speech, Thissen thanked his family, campaign staff and supporters.

“I’m thankful for all of you for seeing the strong, vibrant Minnesota that I see,” he said. “Minnesota can change if we pull together and believe once again that we prosper most when our neighbors prospers.”

Fifth Ballot Results – 10:00:

Kelliher has picked up the endorsement of John Marty.

Marty told the convention Kelliher had assured him she would pass and sign the single-payer healthcare plan he has championed within two years of winning the election.

ReNew Minnesota, meanwhile, voted to consolidate their votes behind one candidate. Who they will support is unknown at this point.


Kelliher – 46.9

Rybak – 32.3

Thissen – 20.1

Update – 9:30: The three remaining candidates are meeting with reNew Minnesota, and the convention is in a 25 minute recess.

The group makes up about 10 percent of the voting bloc here. They had agreed to consolidate their vote behind one of these three back in January.

The motion to recess for this purpose was met with a split vote from the convention.The ayes prevailed after a simple hand count. Any further counting could have taken the better part of 25 minutes itself …

Update – 9:00: While we’re waiting for the fifth ballot, here are profiles the Daily ran on the three remaining DFL candidates. They are part of the “Campaign for the Capitol” series, featuring profiles of all DFL and Republican gubernatorial candidates.

Margaret Anderson Kelliher

Paul Thissen

R.T. Rybak

Fourth Ballot Results – 8:30:

Tom Rukavina has dropped out out of the gubernatorial race and endorsed Margaret Anderson Kelliher.

Rukavina pulled in 17 percent of the vote on the fourth ballot. A Kelliher supporter said he met with Kelliher during the tabulation of that ballot.

“I was the best progressive in this race and there’s no damn doubt about it,” Rukavina said. “I want you to vote for the second best progressive in this race …. I’m going to vote for Margaret on the next ballot.”


Kelliher – 32.8 percent

Rybak – 28.6

Thissen – 21.4

Rukavina – 17

Third Ballot Results – 7:15:

A woman wearing her red Margaret T-shirt just told us Kelliher is meeting with Rukavina right now. Given how tight the balloting is, it’s hard to tell what kind of a meeting that could be, or what its results could bring about.

Also, heading into the fourth ballot, reNew Minnesota, a coalition representing a bloc of about 10 percent of the voters, is expected to back a candidate. As such, the next results could be significantly different.

John Marty drops out of the race.
(Matt Mead, Daily)


Kelliher- 30.7 percent

Rybak- 27.4

Thissen- 21.8

Rukavina- 19.9

Second Ballot Results – 6:05:

John Marty dropped out of the race before the results of the second ballot were announced.

“This isn’t a speech that I really wanted to make,” Marty, the 1994 DFL gubernatorial candidate, said. “I will promise you, I am going back to the Senate, if the Senate will have me. I’ll continue to fight there … Lets keep the fight up until we win. We’re going to win this November.”


Kelliher- 27.8 percent

Rybak- 24.5

Thissen- 19.9

Rukavina- 17.6

Marty- 10

First Ballot Results – 4:25:

Kelliher – 27 percent

Rybak – 21.7

Thissen – 18.8

Rukavina – 18.4

Marty – 13

Entenza – .3 (Withdrew earlier)

Idusodgie – .2 (Eliminated)

Savior – 0 (Eliminated)

Said Rukavina on his fourth-place showing: “I’m feeling great. I’m feeling five-and-a-half feet tall.”

The floor is frozen, and the process for the second round of voting is underway.

Update – 3:10: The speeches are done, the debating has stopped and the balloting has begun.

There are officially 1,348 delegates. To win the endorsement, a candidate must receive 60 percent, or 809 votes. To avoid elimination on the first ballot, a candidate needs more than 4 percent, or 54 votes.

Officially, the candidates seeking the endorsement are R.T. Rybak, Margaret Anderson Kelliher, John Marty, Paul Thissen, Tom Rukavina, Ole Savior and Peter Idusogie.

We’ll check back in when the first ballot is complete.

Update – 2:00: Sen. John Marty started off light, recounting a conversation he had with fellow candidate Rep. Tom Rukavina.

“I’m going to win by wearing Rukavina’s union-made underwear,” he said.

Marty deemed the single payer healthcare reform he was worked toward as “the biggest fight of our generation.”

He further discussed the often-discussed topic of crumbling roads and infrastructure, but added he would support a larger bonding bill to put people to work.

Marty also said he is the candidate independent voters would most likely support because he doesn’t accept contributions from political action committees and corporate interests.

Update – 12:30: The House Speaker, Margaret Anderson Kelliher, highlighted her time working with – and against –Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Republicans in the Legislature.

She brought up the House’s 2008 override of a Pawlenty veto of a $6.7 billion transportation bill.

Margaret Anderson Kelliher and a supporter.
(Matt Mead, Daily)

“I stare down the Republican right and come out with wins,” she said. “[Pawlenty] said go ahead and try [the override], and that’s exactly what I did.”

Kelliher said she has he ability to be the first DFL governor since Rudy Perpich in 1991.

“It has been nearly a quarter century since we elected a DFL governor,” she said. “Are you ready to end the 24-year draught?”

Update – 12:15: Paul Thissen took the stage as his campaign passed out literature highlighting a Republican strategist’s statement that Thissen is the Democrat to most likely win the gubernatorial race.

“In the general election, he could be a real problem (for Republicans) because he connects to Minnesotans in a way a Democrat hasn’t in a long time,” Maureen Shaver said on MPR on Friday, according to the campaign.

Thissen’s speak focused on not running a “safe” candidate, but one that could win.

“It is time to run a fresh face, tested in a partisan environment but armed with a vision that cuts across partisan bounds and appeals to the independent spirit of Minnesotans,” he said. “It’s time to grab hold of our DFL values but transcend the DFL brand.”

Rep. Tom Rukavina spoke next, opening with a letter Paul Wellstone sent him in 1985, encouraging him to run for office.

His speech focused on his populism, saying, “I come from the Farmer-Labor wing of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party.”

The House’s higher education committee chairman also called for more investment in K-12 and higher education.

He ended on a raucous note, flanked by supporters waving his blue and yellow “Refreshingly Honest” flags.

“The time is right for our politics – the politics of justice, the politics of fairness and the politics of compassion,” he said.

Update – 11:40: Speeches by candidates have begun. R.T. Rybak kicked it off, saying his time as mayor gives him the best credentials of any candidate in the race.

R.T. Rybak greets supporters in Duluth.
(Matt Mead, Daily)

“Let’s win the executive branch by running the chief executive of the largest city in the state, who straightened out a financial mess and got Minneapolis moving again,” Rybak said. “I have a better financial record than any Republican or Independent in Minnesota. We will win this race for governor … by making it clear that the economic policies of George Bush and Tim Pawlenty got us into this mess — and it is the Democrats who will get us back on track.”

Full text of his speech here

Following his speech, Matt Entenza withdrew his name from the nomination process. He had promised to abide by the party nomination only if every other candidate did … they didn’t, so he’ll run in the primary in August.

DULUTH, Minn. – It’s day two of the DFL Convention, and we’ll have a party-endorsed candidate by the end of it.

The party will endorse a candidate today for the Nov. 2 election and the Aug. 10 primary, where they will be the likely favorite against a cast of other DFL candidates who fare poorly today, or skip the endorsement process altogether.

Here’s how it works:

-The convention will be called to order this morning, and delegates will nominate candidates for governor. Each who receives at least 50 votes of support from the crowd will have 15 minutes to address the group.

-Balloting begins. There is no limit to the number of ballots the convention will cast, but it will end when one candidate receives 60 percent of the votes cast from the more than 1,300 voters present.

-Candidates must receive at least 4 percent of the vote on the first ballot to advance to the next one. This threshold increases by 4 four percent on all subsequent ballots, weeding out less-supported candidates and allowing their delegates to vote elsewhere.

The candidates to watch today:

-The two front-runners: Margaret Anderson Kelliher, the Speaker of the House, and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. They bring in the most support to the convention, and their signature red (Kelliher) and teal (Rybak) T-shirts are cropping up more often than anyone else.

-The rest of the pack: Sen. John Marty, Reps. Tom Rukavina and Paul Thissen, and former Rep. Matt Entenza.

Former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, who will run in the August primary, was nominated for the party endorsement, but withdrew his name.

One group to watch on the floor: the reNew Minnesota delegation. This group of about 160 delegates will vote for their personal favorite candidates on the first ballot, and has agreed to pool their vote behind either Kelliher, Rybak or Thissen at some point around the third or fourth one. The group constitutes about 10 percent of the delegates, which they think will be enough to shift the balance should it come to a head-to-head battle between any of the three.

The winner today will carry the party’s endorsement into the Aug. 10 primary, against Entenza, Dayton and Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner. Every other candidate has said they will drop out and abide by today’s nomination.

We’ll be updating this blog throughout the day today from Duluth. Be sure to follow along.