By STEVE KARNOWSKI – Associated Press
ST. PAUL, Minnesota (AP) — When the Minnesota Democrats open their state convention in Rochester, drama will not be on the agenda.
The 1,200 delegates will approve the re-election of Governor Tim Walz, Attorney General Keith Ellison, Secretary of State Steve Simon and State Auditor Julie Blaha. They all run unopposed for party support. So the convention, which begins on Friday, will primarily be a pep rally to motivate campaigners for the midterm election season and a campaign training session to help weather the headwinds facing the party.
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It’s likely to contrast with last weekend’s crazy Republican state convention in the same building, the Mayo Civic Center. It took nine ballots for GOP delegates to endorse Scott Jensen for governor in an acrimonious contest in which the head changed hands three times.
“While we don’t have as many fireworks as the Republicans did at their convention, there will definitely be a lot of excitement,” Ken Martin, chairman of the Democratic-Farmer-Worker Party, said in an interview.
Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan will address delegates on Friday when they are approved for a second term. The governor said he will highlight their successes in managing Minnesota through the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting challenges.
“The message is that Minnesota has been through some of the toughest years we’ve had, and we’ve done it as well as any state in the union,” Walz told The Associated Press. “We did it by compromise and by vision. And I’m going to argue that, give us four more years, we’ll keep moving in the right direction.
Ellison, Simon and Blaha will receive the delegates’ blessing on Saturday. On Sunday, there will be more training for delegates and other activists on organizing and mobilizing, and endorsing the party platform.
Martin said he expects Democratic candidates and figures like Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith highlight the party’s accomplishments and agenda for the future. But he acknowledged there will likely be a lot of criticism of Jensen and other GOP candidates for statewide office, which Democrats view as extreme.
“It’s very clear coming out of the convention that the Republican Party in this state, there’s a deep division there. In a year like this, where the Democrats are facing headwinds, if (the Republicans) are going to win their first statewide office since 2006, they can’t afford to be divided,” Martin said.
No Republican has won a statewide office in Minnesota since Gov. Tim Pawlenty was re-elected in 2006. But Republicans hope a rise in violent crime and the country’s economic woes, including soaring inflation and supply chain issues, will make voters receptive to their message. .
Pandemic precautions will also be a major difference between the two parties’ conventions. There was hardly a mask in sight at the GOP rally. But Democrats are requiring attendees to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination and get tested onsite for the disease.
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