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Throwdown in Minneapolis: Live-blogging the GOP

Staff//April 29, 2010

Throwdown in Minneapolis: Live-blogging the GOP

Staff//April 29, 2010

Welcome to our live blog of the 2010 Minnesota state Republican convention. Stick with us today and tomorrow, as we cover all the hoopla and fanfare and actual business of the GOP.

(Staff key: PBG, Peter Bartz-Gallagher; PD, Paul Demko; SP, Steve Perry; CS, Charley Shaw; BS, Betsy Sundquist.

1:45 a.m.: Tonight’s lengthy fight for the GOP endorsement for state auditor is being perceived as good news by the gubernatorial campaign of Marty Seifert. It’s not that former Auditor Pat Anderson won the endorsement that’s good news for Seifert. But it would have given the Seifert campaign pause had Anderson wiped the field clean on the first ballot, notes one Seifert supporter. Anderson’s opponent Randy Gilbert dropped out of the race after the third ballot was taken.

There’s an undercurrent of support among delegates, the Seifert supporter noted, that connects Anderson and Seifert’s chief rival for the GOP gubernatorial nod Tom Emmer. Both Anderson’s and Emmer’s campaigns have been well received by the so-called tea party activists in the party.

Emmer supporters have frequently predicted today that he could clinch the endorsement in two or three ballots. If the upstarts from the tea party aren’t running away with the convention, then today’s gubernatorial contest between Emmer and Seifert will likely be extremely competitive. (CS)

1:30: DFL State Auditor Rebecca Otto released a statement responding to former State Auditor Pat Anderson’s GOP endorsement to challenge her in November. Otto won the office from Anderson in 2006. “I think we have very clear differences. Pat spent her time in office grandstanding for partisan causes as a self-described ‘liberals worst nightmare’ while making hundreds of millions of dollars in financial errors. I’ve done nearly three times as many investigations as she did, and earned the national nonpartisan Excellence in Accountability Award for my work on innovation and efficiency.” (CS)

1:23: Randy Gilbert concedes GOP state auditor endorsement battle to Pat Anderson. Anderson invites those still awake to her hospitality suite at the Hyatt.

12:43: Wiita withdraws from the endorsement race. He doesn’t endorse either remaining candidate. (CS)

12:41: There won’t be a roll call. The third ballot is under way. (CS)

12:28 a.m.: Second ballot results in state auditor endorsement race: Anderson 972 (56.5 percent), Gilbert 600 (34.9 percent), Wiita 140 (8.1 percent). 1,078 votes are needed to clinch the endorsement. Some BPOUs have requested that a roll call be taken. (CS)

11:52: The second auditor ballots have just gone to the counting room. A handful of Anderson and Gilbert supporters are making a halfhearted effort to parade around the floor, waving signs. The worst news of the night so far: The snack bar has just closed. (BS)

11:30: Delegate makes motion to adjourn for the night and resume balloting for auditor endorsement at 9 a.m. tomorrow. The motion is soundly defeated on a voice vote. (CS)

11:26: There will be a second auditor ballot. Pat Anderson gets 47.9 percent on the first ballot, Randy Gilbert 33.3 percent, Jeff Wiita 18.2 percent and Tom Conlon — who withdrew from consideration before the ballot — .3 percent.

11:23: A motion to table discussion of the platform report because everyone’s getting tired has been approved; instead, delegates will be able to “visit with each other.” In other news: We’re still waiting for results of the auditor endorsement balloting. (BS)

10:51: While they wait for the results of the first auditor ballot, delegates are debating platform language. (BS)

10:38: A major question at the GOP convention is the number of delegates who haven’t pledged their support to either of the two front-runners for governor. Some have said that more than 30 percent of the delegates are uncommitted.

Longtime GOP political pro Gregg Peppin, however, thinks that less than 10 percent of the convention is undecided. Peppin, who is an adviser to Marty Seifert’s campaign for governor, figures that only about 150 delegates are likely to be uncommitted. He noted, though, that the candidate speeches will be a deciding factor: “People get swayed by speeches.” (CS)

10:09: Delegates are asked not to sign their ballots in blood or disappearing ink. (BS)

10:06: The convention prepares to cast ballots in the contested race for GOP auditor endorsement. (CS)

10:03: Wiita, who has worked in the auditor’s office for 27 years, says the office has been illegitimate since the reorganization that made it a partisan office in 1973. He would privatize the audit division. (CS)

10:02: Overheard in the men’s room: A GOP delegate on his decision to wear a yarmulke: “The Ron Paul people don’t like it, because they don’t like Jews. But to hell with them.” (PD)

10:00: “Until I blew the whistle in it, it was politics as usual behind your backs” in the auditor’s office, Wiita declares. (BS)

9:58: Wiita says he’s the most qualified auditor candidate because he’s a CPA. (BS)

9:51: Jeff Wiita is the last auditor candidate to take the convention stage seeking GOP endorsement. Rather quiet in the hall without an accompanying music selection. (CS)

9:46: Gilbert raises concerns over billions of unfunded liabilities in Minnesota’s public pensions. Vows to rank communities in terms of the severity of their pension liabilities. (CS)

9:41: Auditor candidate Randy Gilbert is next candidate to appear. Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line” plays as he takes the stage. (CS)

9:39: Conlon withdraws from auditor race. Endorses Pat Anderson. (CS)

9:30: Tom Conlon is the next auditor candidate to take convention stage seeking GOP endorsement. (CS)

9:27: Anderson vows to audit light rail and revamp local government aid. She claims DFL incumbent Auditor Rebecca Otto has been six months late on some audits.  (CS)

9:23: Pat Anderson is nominated by Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem. (CS)

9:17: Endorsement contest for state auditor begins. Former Auditor Pat Anderson begins with a video introduction. (CS)

9:13: AG candidate Barden criticizes DFL incumbent Lori Swanson for not challenging the “unconstitutional” federal health care legislation: “When your lawyer fails to defend you, you get a better lawyer.” (CS)

9:10: Spotted: State Rep. Tom Hackbarth duct-taping Emmer signs to a trash can inside the convention center. (PD)

9:06: Barden accepts the nomination. (BS)

9:01: In this room, calling somebody a “community organizer” is akin to calling someone a puppy murderer. (BS)

8:58: Christopher Barden is nominated for endorsement for attorney general. (BS)

8:55: Motion is made to endorse Severson unanimously; he’s endorsed by voice vote, and accepts, invoking his Navy experience and telling delegates that he needs fuel, pointing out that there are envelopes conveniently located on their chairs. He leaves the stage to Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone.” (BS)

8:50: Severson says ACORN plus incumbent SoS Mark Ritchie equal a conspiracy to unseat “righteous people,” like former SoS Kiffmeyer. (SP)

8:48: Severson’s taken the podium to chants of “Go Dan go!” (BS)

8:44: Kiffmeyer tells delegates that Minnesota needs a secretary of state “who knows how to count and can keep track of the ballots.” (BS)

8:43: Mary Kiffmeyer takes the podium to nominate Dan Severson for secretary of state. (BS)

8:31: A motion’s been made to amend the agenda and postpone the endorsement of auditor to Friday. The main argument: A lot of delegates have to drive a long way to get here, and many of them haven’t arrived. Debate continues; the main argument against the rule suspension is that the delegates who are driving long distances knew that the convention began tonight. That’s been pointed out several times now, and it draws sustained applause every time. (BS)

8:26: There’s grumbling among some party activists about Republican attorney general candidate R. Christopher Barden. “He finished third in a three-way race for the local school board in some town in Utah,” one told us moments ago. “Let’s just say he’s not a campaigner.” (SP)

8:21: Byberg draws perhaps the biggest cheer of the night so far when he says the main job of Republicans is to “make sure our president remains a one-term president.” (SP)

8:14: Lee Byberg, the endorsed candidate to run against U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, gets a standing ovation. He tells the crowd that he was born in 1962 in Chicago: “Don’t hold that against me,” he says. (BS)

8:12: Collett says if she gets the prayers of everyone in the room, the next two things she needs will come: volunteers and money: “Then we will say, ‘Bye-bye, Betty!'” (BS)

8:09: Collett promises the crowd to “cut the federal government back to constitutional size” and says she’s giving out copies of the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence at her booth. (BS)

8:07: Teresa Collett, the GOP-endorsed candidate to run for the Fourth Congressional District seat, was introduced by convention co-chair Jeff Johnson as a “brilliant woman” who is taking on the “somewhat less brilliant Betty McCollum.” (BS)

8:05: The rules have been adopted — and the announcement of such is greeted with fervent applause. (BS)

7:56: Intense discussion of rules for roll-call votes on contested endorsement votes has been going on for 20 minutes. Marty Seifert is cruising the aisles, shaking hands and courting delegates. (BS)

7:42: Martha Nutting of Zumbrota, a guest at the convention sporting a pink Emmer t-shirt, stopped by to chat with the media. “I’m going around telling Seifert people, ‘Repent and the gates of heaven will be opened to you,” Nutting said. She was asked why she supports Emmer. “He likes hockey,” she replied. (BS/PD)

7:39: Informal delegate survey: Emmer seems to have 100 percent of the delegates who are wearing Mardi Gras beads. (PD)

7:29: And he’s in. After an hour of cooling his heels, Two-Putt Tommy has made it onto the convention floor. The GOP “musta got tired o’my tweets,” Tommy tweeted. (BS)

7:22: House Minority Leader Kurt Zellers of Maple Grove is in the House. Though Republicans don’t have superdels, Zellers is in fact a delegate. “I’m Switzerland here,” he said of the governor’s race between his House colleagues. “They’re both good friends of mine, and to see this–six months ago, it would have been ‘Marty who?’ ‘Tom what?’

“And now–I’m very happy to see the excitement this race is generating. I don’t think I’ve seen this kind of excitement since 1994 when I worked for Rod Grams.” (SP)

7:18: Secretary of state candidate Dan Severson’s troops are massing next to the media area, armed with signs and red t-shirts. (BS)

7:11: We’re hearing unconfirmed reports that Norm Coleman is making phone calls on behalf of Tom Emmer. (PD)

7:06: A Republican lobbyist who’s backing Emmer wondered aloud to us what the Seifert campaign’s floor plan was going to be. If they shot their best shot a week in advance, with the Emmer DWI attack, he wonders, what is their floor strategy going to be? And does it mean fresh attack fodder to come? (CS)

6:58: The credentials committee report is being read now, and it confirms what a quick eyeballing of the room indicates: A lot of delegates from outside the metro aren’t here yet. (SP)

6:50: Tony Sutton‘s giving a pro-GOP pep talk to a distinctly underwhelmed room. Smattering of applause for this: “If you want an unemployment check, vote Democrat. If you want a paycheck, vote Republican!” Otherwise, he’s not connecting. Delegates still filing in, and maybe that’s the problem. Or else there are a lot of people here who aren’t that interested in the institutional Republican Party. (SP)

6:47: Sutton says the “chilling effect” that DFL gubernatorial candidates Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Mark Dayton and Matt Entenza are having on the business climate in Minnesota is “palpable.” (BS)

6:45: Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek draws sustained applause in his welcome message, when he brags that that his office has issued more than 10,000 conceal/carry permits. (BS)

6:39: Gretchen Hoffman, the GOP’s endorsed candidate to run for the Senate District 10 seat, leads the delegation in the Pledge of Allegiance. “Unlike our friends up in Duluth last weekend, we didn’t have any hesitation over that, did we?” Sutton asks, referring to a minor kerfuffle at the state DFL convention over including the words “under God” in the pledge. (BS)

6:34: Party Chair Tony Sutton is calling the convention to order. (BS)

6:30: We’ve just gotten the two-minute warning. Time for the fun to begin. (BS)

6:20: Lots of Emmer people privately predicting victory in two or three ballots, including Rob Lambert, who earlier today broke the Palin endorsement news. (SP)

6:09: Two-Putt Tommy — aka Tommy Johnson, who blogs for Minnesota Progressive Project but couldn’t get media credentials to cover the convention because he was told that he had missed the deadline — just tweeted that he’d managed to get a sympathetic VFW member to allow him into the convention on a guest pass. But 10 minutes later, he tweeted again that those overseeing the door weren’t allowing him onto the floor. “In limbo,” Johnson said. (BS)

5:21: Sources close to Tom Emmer’s campaign say the candidate’s endorsement by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was supposed to be kept close to the vest, but the news sprang a leak this afternoon — much to the chagrin of the campaign. (BS)

5:05: GOP communications director Mark Drake just hurried over to the media section and distributed copies of the official convention program. There’s a letter on page 5 from Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who welcomes his “fellow Republicans” to the convention. But let’s hope whoever taught the gov basic grammar won’t see the letter, because here’s how the next-to-last line reads: “Thank you again for all you have done for Mary and I over the years.” (Note to the governor: That should be “Mary and me.” Thank you to my elementary school teachers.) (BS)

4:40: They’ve just opened the doors into Hall E, and supporters of Tom Emmer — most of them appearing to be teenagers — have swarmed into the room, hauling signs. Workers are also setting up posts in the main seating section, designating assigned seats for delegates.

And once again, we wonder if anyone actually listens to song lyrics before they select the musical interludes that are played at these very partisan events. “99 Luftballoons” — seriously, “the war machine springs to life, opens up one eager eye”? That’s a message the GOP wants to convey? — just segued into Minnesota native Bob Dylan’s “The Times, They Are a-Changing.” Which we’re pretty sure was never intended to be a Republican theme song. (BS)

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