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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Convening and Screening - a Sunday afternoon with the Stonewall DFL (Part 1)

Okay, first here is what wasn't visible or talked about at the January 29th endorsing convention:

  • Mike Hatch
  • Attorney General Candidates. You would have never known the office was up for election
  • 6th Congressional District candidates (or any Congressional seat, for that matter)
  • A vast majority of the 201 Legislative seats up for election. One open seat was discussed ad infinitum. 3 were briefly mentioned
  • 5 Hennepin County Commissioner seats

And before I get to the substance of the report, I have to make this personal observation...... It has been a long time since I've been at any kind of official DFL meeting. I couldn't help noting that a reading of an affirmative action statement is part of the agenda. It's like liturgy. What isn't on the agenda is the Pledge of Allegience. Do with that observation what you will....

Okay, now I'll get serious. Stonewall conducted several candidate screenings on Sunday, and had their endorsing convention starting at 4:00 pm. 56 voting members were in attendance. I attended two of the screenings, for US Senate and Hennepin County Attorney. I was impressed by all of the candidates, and the screenings were well managed.

I'll go through the various offices in order of importance:

US Senate - Amy Klobuchar and Ford Bell both appeared for the screenings. I've heard plenty from Klobuchar, but had never seen Ford Bell before. I wouldn't have known who he was. Both did well - I noted no major gaffes. The small audience had some interesting observations for the screening committee. It was noted that some of Dr. Bell's answers to questions were more straightforward and transparent than those of the Hennepin County Attorney. She speaks very well, but there were not as many clear yes or no responses. Both candidates were found to be acceptable, and Amy Klobuchar got the endorsement. Reasons cited included electability and fund raising success.

Governor - this screening was on Sunday morning. In attendance were Becky Lourey, Steve Kelley, and Shelia Kiscaden, representing Kelly Doran. Mike Hatch did not respond to the caucus's questionaire, but reportedly sent an envelope full of other printed material. Hmmm.

The screening committee's recommendation was to find all three acceptable, and to endorse Steve Kelley. The reason cited for Kelley's endorsement was that he was committed to abiding by the party's endorsement in the fall. In front of the full voting membership, Kelly Doran was not considered acceptable. Reasons cited were an alleged history of supporting Republican candidates in the past (which is not uncommon for savvy business people like Mr. Doran), and Senator Kiscaden's lack of support for Medicaid funding of gender re-assignments. The voting body took two votes on endorsements, both of which were essentially a tie between Lourey and Kelley. When I left the meeting around 6:20 pm, the sentiment in the room was to not endorse.

Secretary of State - Two new comers stepped up, Christian Sande and Mark Ritchie. Both were deemed acceptable, and Mr. Sande was endorsed. The screening committee's reasons for recommending endorsement were that he demonstrated that he was knowledgable about the job, and he's gay.

State Auditor - Rebecca Otto and Reggie Edwards participated in Sunday screening sessions. I chose the US Senate screening over this one, but did listen to the follow up discussion from the audience. I also talked to somebody who had listened to the screenings. Both candidates were deemed acceptable, and Reggie Edwards got the endorsement. I spoke with him in the hallway between meetings. He works in the public sector now, and is knowledgable about finance and budgets. He's truly interested in being an auditor. Rebecca Otto doesn't have any specific qualifications for this job. Her House vote in favor of the Bachmann amendment was noted, and her explanation was political expediency. She didn't want her next campaign for the House seat to be about gay marriage. Well, it didn't help her. I'm glad the members of Stonewall saw through this sham. During the voting with the full body, I did notice that some well known DFL office holders were supporting her endorsement.

I'll do a second message about the other offices that were considered.