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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

More Hats in the Ring for Tim Walz's Seat

Rochester Post Bulletin:

State Rep. Randy Demmer announced Saturday that he is running for Congress in Minnesota's 1st District, bringing to three the number of Republicans seeking their party's endorsement for the opportunity to run against U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat.

Demmer, a Republican from Hayfield, made his announcement at the Olmsted County Republican Convention at the Ramada Hotel and Conference Center in Rochester. He joins state Sen. Dick Day of Owatonna and Lake Crystal-Welcome school board member Mark Meyer as declared candidates.

"The district fits me very well. It's really a mirror of the district that I represent in the Minnesota House. It's small towns, it's agriculture, and it's communities like Rochester, regional centers," Demmer said in an interview after his announcement.

Even as the roster of declared Republican candidates grew, one person whose possible candidacy has been the subject of much speculation appeared to take himself out of the running.

John Wade, president of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, said he was not considering himself a candidate for office, despite receiving numerous calls of encouragement to run.

"I think it would probably be best for our family that I continue to do what I like to do," Wade said.

The bidding for the Republican endorsement is expected to be particularly feverish this year. The seat was held for 12 years by Republican Gil Gutknecht until his upset defeat by Walz in November.

Saturday's convention was the first opportunity for candidates to pitch their candidacies to delegates who will decide who gets the Republican endorsement.

"I plan on winning back the First District for Republicans," Day said in a speech before about 70 county Republicans that stressed his conservative credentials and his record of winning elections.

A 16-year state senator who held the post of GOP House Minority Leader for nearly a decade, Day touted himself as among the most conservative members at the Legislature.

"There's never been a waver on any type of gay marriage, abortion, prayer in schools. You name it. I've either led the charge or I voted that way, so I think you'll find that I have very strong conservative credentials," Day said.

Day also stressed his Rochester roots. He was born on a farm four miles outside of Rochester and later, when his family moved to town, he lived just blocks from Mayo Clinic. His brother, Dewey, was mayor of Rochester from 1969 to 1973.

Meyer, the Crystal Lake-Welcome school board member, portrayed himself as a "professional problem-solver." Fixing Social Security and reforming health care would be among his priorities if elected to Congress, he said.

"Universal health care is not socialized medicine, and it's not a single-payer system, and it is in play," Meyer said. "I think it's too important of an issue to leave to the Democrats."

There were also declarations of noncandidacy at the convention. Carla Nelson, a one-term state representative from Rochester who unsuccessfully tried to regain her seat in the past two elections, said she would not be a candidate in 2008.

"Your past support, your friendship has been more than any elected official could ask for. And there are many ways to serve. And rest assured, I will stay close to the action," Nelson said.

A straw poll taken at the convention showed Day as a the top vote-getter with 35 percent of the vote, followed by Demmer (34 percent) and Kenric Scheevel (14 percent). Wade and Dr. Scott Wright both received write-in votes.

This should be interesting. It's good that the Rochester Paper attends these conventions. I've tried to convince Twin Cities reporters to attend early DFL and Republican conventions.

MN Publius gives some DFL slanted horse race analysis.