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2018 DFL State Convention Day 2

by Eric Ferguson on June 2, 2018 · 7 comments

Yesterday’s live blog got really long, so I decided to start a fresh post for today. See yesterday for an intro to what a live blog is, disclosure of biases, yesterday’s events, and I’m unlikely to explain procedural stuff or regurgitate opinions explained in yesterday’s live blog.
If you want to watch the live stream, go to The Uptake web site. If you want to glance over at the MNGOP convention also going this weekend, go here.
Today is governor and attorney general. My wife snapped a photo of the Matt Pelikan pelican in the concourse outside the convention hall. That’s fun.
Pelikan pelican from outside DFL state convention
The convention has reconvened. Lots of delegates missed yesterday, unsurprisingly since governor is the big attraction, so rules and procedures are being explained again. The noise level on the floor is more obvious here than watching on the live stream. So if you’re streaming, feel smug that you can hear better than people here. Though those of us here can hear the videos since we’re not under Youtube’s thumb. So there.

Besides governor, the attorney general endorsement is today. I’m guessing Lori Swanson will win on the first ballot, but that’s based on her being a well known incumbent. I have no real information. She likely wouldn’t have to have this contest if she has announced her reelection run last year. She was expected to run for governor, and I kept hearing she was going to announce such by the end of October. However, with the other candidates having their campaigns up and run, and several people running provisional AG campaigns, October came and went, and 2017 ended, and though the rumormill kept saying she would announce for governor or just skip the convention, I figured if she was going to run, she would have. By the time she announced for reelection, the other AG candidates had spent a lot of time on their campaigns and I couldn’t blame them for continuing to run, which Matt Pelikan did. To be fair, I think he always said his campaign wasn’t provisional, but he intended to go for the endorsement regardless. And today he is. Biases up front, were I voting, I’d vote for Swanson because she should cruise to reelection, and that’s one less race we have to give attention to. Governor should be our top priority, so we know the MNGOP can’t gerrymander the next redistricting. Next priority is the US House because we have to block Trump. Though there’s the chance to take both houses of the legislature since the state House is up this year, and a special election for a MNGOP seat offers a small chance to flip the state Senate. Then we could actually pass some good legislation instead of blocking the bad. However, 2020 is when we elect the legislature that will handle redistricting.
The delegates are having a practice vote right now. The DFL’s electronic voting system worked. The MNGOP’s didn’t, but I have too much sympathy for the techies trying to make it work with a bunch of people watching to mock the Republicans for it. I’ll save the mocking for their choices of candidates and the crazy train of speakers at their podium. Apparently the DFL is “a cancer”. No wonder they don’t do compromise — how do you compromise with a cancer?

Supporters of the three gubernatorial candidates were having what I can only describe as a cheerleading contest of sorts out side the convention hall. Took a while to figure out how to get around and through and to concessions. But we have our baked goods, so it’s all good. The convention is hearing guest speakers now. Dean Phillips is the endorsed candidate in CD3 and Betty McCollum is the incumbent in CD4. She’s as good as reelected already. Phillips seems to have a shot. CD3 went for Hillary by 9 points, though there are still lots of people fooled into thinking Erik Paulsen is some last of the GOP moderates. He’s actually the congressman from the medical device industry and he votes as far right as the rest of them. Speakers are speaking while delegates are getting some time to submit questions for the gubernatorial candidate Q&A.

From talking to some Matt Pelikan supporters, the motivation seems to be guns. The NRA has given a good rating to Lori Swanson, so sounds like she has some explaining to do. Right now they’re having a video and eulogy for the recently passed long time party affairs director, who died in his 40’s from brain cancer. He had young children. Like hell life is fair.

The AG endorsement is next. Someone speaking for Matt Pelikan is focusing on gun violence. Making his own speech, he’s focusing on guns, drug prices, and anti-trust. He’s also going after Swanson for dropping a travel ban lawsuit. It’s unusual to hear candidates speaking about their endorsement opponents, but it makes sense he would because he has to make a case for removing the incumbent. He gives a rousing speech.
Mike Hatch is speaking for Lori Swanson and defending her record on guns. He was apparently warned she needed to hit back at her opponent, so he’s both touting her record and pointing out Pelikan’s lack of experience. She’s also being endorsed by several people she helped with consumer issues. Now a union member is talking about her union support. Interesting strategy, having lots of other people speak for her and limiting her own time. Nothing wrong with doing that though, and maybe sensible since she’s up against a strong speaker. Candidates can use their time how they want, and maybe she feels this makes her points better. Another speaking is disputed that she didn’t oppose the travel ban. The two campaigns are completely contradicting each other on her record. Time is up and she didn’t speak for herself. I wonder if that was on purpose.

The convention hall as seen from visitor and alternate seating.

The convention hall as seen from visitor and alternate seating.


They’re getting ready to vote. The floor being “frozen” means only delegates and officials are on the floor. Delegates can leave but they can’t enter. And there I broke my rule about not re-explaining stuff I explained yesterday. The chair is explaining the procedure again.


The vote was 52-48 for Swanson. It takes a supermajority of 60% (re-explaining alert!) to endorse, so they’ll move on to a second ballot. However, we don’t get endorsements when two candidates are this close. The two campaigns should just move for no endorsement.

Nope, the chair just announced the floor is about to freeze. Guess they’re going to try a second ballot.
Nope again. Swanson withdrew. Pelikan wins. Weird move. She likely would win a primary without an endorsee. Now it will be a tough primary. As my remarks about how she took so long to announce what she would be running for showed, I don’t get her strategy. As a party loyalist, I’m ticked that now we’re going to have a competitive AG primary when we know we already have a competitive primary for the B US Senate seat, and likely a competitive gubernatorial primary. We need to be working on the general election.

Tom Bakk, the DFL Senate leader, is speaking and just gave a shout out to the person from Michelle Fischbach’s district who filed the lawsuit when Fischbach decided obeying the state constitution is optional and stayed in her senate seat after becoming lt. governor. Still amazes me the courts found some excuse to let her stay there. Here’s hoping Gov. Dayton doesn’t suddenly die or get caught taking a bribe on video before he’s out. The good news, there’s a hope in the special election for that red seat to have a blue result, and the DFL grabbing the now-tied state Senate. But it is a red seat, so likely not. But given how special elections have gone so blue this cycle, maybe.

Mark Dayton is speaking. Not what you call a natural speaker, but he governs with substance. Helps to show why I tend to resist being influenced by a candidate’s speaking ability. A strong speaker might impress me as being a potential candidate, but has nothing to do with governing other than the “bully pulpit” part. Dayton’s strength was always message discipline.

Delegates cheered the announcement that we’re moving on to governor. If there were still any doubt about what they’re here for … .(How do you end a sentence that ends with ellipses?) Just the expected three are nominated. On to videos and speeches. I’m guessing the first ballot will be at 1:20, after speeches and floor freezing.

The Murphy supporters are doing a bunch of chanting like out in the concourses. They’re trying hard to be the most energetic. Murphy is speaking. Kind of hard to hear her with her supporters cheering constantly. She said she expects Tim Pawlenty to be the MNGOP nominee. She’s likely right. In policy terms, the only substantial thing she mentioned was single-payer. Hurrah for that. I’m wondering if she and her seconders, as the people speaking on a candidate’s behalf are called, were aware there was a microphone. They didn’t have to scream. Of course, I’m sitting near a loudspeaker, so maybe I’m not hearing it like on the floor or on TV. Is there TV, or just the web stream? I took a glance at the Twitter stream on the Uptake site. The MNGOP is hearing gubernatorial speeches now, and I never even heard of the candidate in the photo from a few minutes ago.


Peggy Flanagan is speaking now. Interesting that Walz picked a running mate so early, but shows he knows where his vulnerabilities are. She has progressive cred, she’s metro, and she’s a she. She’s stressing her Ojibwe background. She talking about running everywhere. Hugs Tim Walz after introducing him. What, you thought they’d have a cold formal handshake? That would have been a very bad sign, Trump-Melania bad. Walz is talking about his family background. Says his mom went job hunting the day after his dad died. Both running mates talk about running all over the state. He said Nancy Pelosi advised him to tone down the pro-choice rhetoric. She’s known for telling her caucus to run against her if they have to, but just win. Interesting point: “she told me to oppose her, but I refused”.

As the Walz people are now doing the whooping and cheering, I wonder how much this persuades any remaining undecideds. Seriously, I don’t know. Obviously they’re going for the bandwagon effect.

Zarina Baber is speaking first. Otto didn’t go for the running mate to balance off the candidate, as much. They’re both suburban women. Baber is an immigrant from India and a Muslim. She’s accomplished, but picking someone so new to politics seems like an odd choice. Each candidate had a video. I wonder if they’re afraid they’ll look unserious without one? Might not matter, but campaigns do everything because they can’t know for sure what works. Otto’s video also mentions single-payer, and emphasizes her environmental cred. She’s the first one to emphasize being able to win. Tina Liebling, who dropped out of the gubernatorial race, introduced her for her speech. She’s a more polished speaker than when the campaign started. All three candidates mentioned Pawlenty. Maybe they really want to run against him. I kind of do to. We could make it seem like he’s the incumbent and go after his record.
Breaking down the speeches/presentations, Otto has a lot of stories about specific people leading up to a point. Walz emphasized running everywhere and courageous votes he took (courageous for being in a swing district). Murphy was all energy. I notice none of them went after their opponents, which is really different from the email and social media campaigns, and smarter too since DFLers tend to react badly to DFLer on DFLer negative campaigning. Very different dynamic than the AG race.

The chair just announced that it’s prayer break time, but no recess. There won’t be any votes while those who need to go pray do so but otherwise things will proceed along. Next up is the Q&A.
Q&A, Walz is going to the primary, Otto and Murphy abiding. First question was about soil erosion, and the second on global warming. If you weren’t sure which party’s convention this is… So far, style differences but no policy differences. Their answers are like the speeches in style. Murphy is all energy, Otto has details, Walz has legislative specifics. Consider this proof they wrote their own speeches.

Single-payer question, they’re all for it, and the answers are what you would expect given the stylistic differences identified. On getting young adults to vote, Walz backs automatic registration (one of my policy favorites, so yeah). Otto mentions restoring felon voting rights. Murphy talks about energized young people she’s met.

On winning statewide, Murphy has the don’t-divide approach, Otto has won statewide and Walz talks about showing it in CD1. Much as many DFLers don’t want to admit it, the metro-rural divide is real. Much as people in the metro might not feel it, the rural areas keep telling us it’s there, so we might as well believe them.

Voting just ended for the first ballot. I’m sitting where I can see the floor well, and there are lots of yellow t-shirts among the delegates. A lot of blue too which I thought were all Murphy, but I’m told many blue shirts are Otto’s. I don’t know how much t-shirts indicate. Nothing if the wearers aren’t delegates, and campaigns put shirts on supporters to show support. But does that affect any votes? For testing purposes, I wish we could have a convention with no shirts, and one with no speeches, and without either, and see if we get all the same results. But we can’t, so campaigns must do all that stuff. If the shirts are indicative, then Walz has a lead. We’ll shortly see.
The first ballot is Walz 41, Murphy 39, Otto 18. I don’t know the drop rule and probably Otto can stick around another ballot, but there’s not much point. Maybe she could offere her endorsement in exchange for some policy concession, but the three are so similar, that I don’t know what that would be. An alternative would be for her supporters to split evenly, meaning a 50-50 split and no endorsement so she can go to the primary without opposing an endorsee.
They’re going to a second ballot. All three are still on there. I don’t know how a split-your-delegates strategy could be done, so it’s up to the individual delegates who they make their second choice. I suppose the Otto supporters can still vote their hearts on this one and hope for something unexpected, but I will be shocked if we get another leader dropping out.

Just found out the drop rule is 5% after the first ballot, and 5% each ballot thereafter. Seriously? Otto is going to address the convention. She said they’ll take the weekende to thing about it. Not sure what that means. She’s going to abide, so she might run in the primary if there’s no endorsement. Clearly not promising wither way. On the second ballot, Murphy had 47, Walz 45, Otto 7. I’m sticking by my no-endorsement prediction.
You may have noticed the chairs telling delegates to sign a green sheet if you’re watching the live stream. That’s because the ballots have to be signed according to national rules. In theory, the people who elected a delegate could check that they voted as promised. Delegates aren’t voters; they’re representatives. Often first time delegates are surprised and annoyed at the lack of a secret ballot.

Technical difficulties. The ballot will take place again, and of course everyone in the immediate neighborhood joked about Republicans or Russians hacking in. But we wonder.

Wow again — the banging and jumping of excited delegates breaking the no more demonstrations rule created vibrations that disconnected a wire somewhere and screwed up the vote. That’s why it has to be done over. Some delegates surely let the hall and didn’t get the word, so if the revote has any big effect, the loser has a justified challenge to the endorsement.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey is speaking about RCV. No surprise he’s for it. Though I think he had the most first choice votes, and would have won a first-past-the-post election, probably, admitting that’s a different election. I like it too, and I’d like to see it in partisan elections. The last ballot was 53-47 Murphy. Her supporters are celebrating, but they seem not to get she’s not close yet. Probably won’t get any closer. I’m actually more confident than that probably implies.

Walz just walked through the floor with Rebecca Otto, causing Walz supporters to cheer. Did Otto see my confident prediction and decide to screw things up for me? Am I getting treatment for my paranoia? Both no. I question whether all of Otto’s supporters will go to Walz. That’s what it would take to get him close to the endorsement. Remember they split, so a bunch were with Walz already.

The convention is debating whether text messages sent by campaigns violates the rule against more campaign lit being distributed at this point in the convention. Not sure what it means if they can’t do that except they can’t do it again. It came from the Otto and Walz campaigns. I’m guessing Otto threw her support to Walz so there won’t be an endorsement. A Murphy staffer who I won’t name told me they’re determined to try to get to an endorsement and are going to oppose an attempt to vote endorsement. I don’t know how they can prevent that if Otto and Walz’s delegates vote no endorsement. It takes just a simple majority. Hey, at least all fears this would be dull are shown groundless.

I talked to Richard Painter and asked about the rumor he’s running as an independent. He said he’s already filed as a DFLer. He’s going to the primary because he thinks the endorsement shouldn’t be determinative. We didnt have time to discuss, but he brought up Citizens United. I’d have pointed out that the caucus/convention process is up close and personal and can’t be bought, but primaries usually go to the biggest spender. To me, if there’s a hands-down argument in favor of the endorsement process, that’s it. Remember that Leah Pipher had the most votes in CD8 yet is dropping out, because she can’t afford to run in a primary without the endorsement. So no endorsement cost the leading candidate her shot. That said, realistically, sometimes convention are evenly divided and we aren’t going to have an endorsement, like here it appears.

Murphy 52, no endorsement 40, 8 Walz. Off to another ballot. If the Walz and Otto people stick together, it’s a matter of Murphy supporters accepting there’s no point in continuing. They aren’t there yet. So can they sway enough Otto and Walz delegates? That’s what they’re trying.

On the MNGOP side, looks like the predicted happened and Jeff Johnson is endorsed for another try at governor. At least they have their own primary, so they don’t get to bash away freely at our candidates. Nor will we get to bash at theirs.

State Chair Ken Martin just addressed the convention explaining the endorsement means the party works on behalf of the endorsee during the primary campaign. With no endorsement, the party has to stay on the sides until the primary decides the nominee, and that gives an advantage to the Republicans. AS true as that is, what is anyone going to do if the convention is evenly divided? You can’t just tell roughly 10% to switch to the other candidate. This convention is about evenly divided. Just happens sometimes.

A female delegate just complained that a man is walking around making anti-white male statements. She’s right that such isn’t really inclusive. You don’t have to be hostile to some people to support others. Chair Martin has seen how contentious it’s getting and reminds the convention where all DFLers.
The ballot was 54-44 Murphy to no endorsement, with 2% still insisting on voting for Walz. Yet another delegate speaks pleading their personal sacrifice and their demographics in making their case. People are abusing the right to ask for information or raise a point of personal privilege to make speeches for or against endorsing.

Some delegates are spending time arguing about the length of time between ballots, and re-arguing after losing a vote. Others insist on speaking while balloting is going on. They’ve been told over and over not to do that, so FWIW my patience with them is at an end. The chairs are dealing with it nicely, better than I would.

Murphy got closer on the latest ballot. 58.7%. No endorsement has 38.5%. It’s a change from arguing about warning times and bathrooms, where both sides said they were pleading for the disabled. Murphy delegates must be succeeding in persuading some Otto and Walz delegates. Looks like she’ll get it on the next ballot. As unimpressed as I clearly was with Murphy’s presentation and Q&A, I’ll get behind her if she’s endorsed, and for her sake I’ll be glad the convention speech part of the election is over. If Walz pulls out the primary, I’ll get behind him, even if a bit resentfully, because having Jeff Johnson or the return of Gov. Traffic Jam would be a disaster. One things I could see the Walz campaign having a legitimate complaint about is that when Ken Martin explained what the endorsement means, he made a case for somehow endorsing, so they could say the party chair put his thumb on the scale and invalidated the process.
Walz withdrew, so Murphy is endorsed by acclimation. Talking just now to supporters of each sitting together happily chatting, they suspect a lot of delegates thought going for no endorsement at that point was arrogant, so maybe Walz should have let some ballots go by with no changing result. Walz supporters, however, did think Ken Martin basically pushed for Murphy, so that could come up when justifying running against the endorsee. Martin would likely say it’s his job as chair to push for some endorsement. I actually don’t agree. When I was a chair, I saw my job as just running a fair process and if delegates didn’t endorse, that was on them, though Martin is right that no endorsement means we can’t get behind a candidate until after the primary, which is why I don’t like just going straight to a primary. The result is the party will get behind Murphy for the primary and Walz will try running it now appears, but before someone says “Mark Dayton” again, Dayton had unique name recognition and ability to self-fund. Walz can’t self-fund, and he doesn’t have nearly Dayton’s name recognition.
Probably obvious, but I’m going to have a separate post for day 3.

From Dan:

Good lord, did they really not endorse Swanson? This group must be even more clueless and out-of-touch than usual.
And no, Swanson is not going to have a tough primary because some random loser got the increasingly worthless DFl endorsemt. I expect she gave up because she was hungry for lunch and really didn’t care what this roomful of losers wanted to do.

From Dan:
I’m with you on the prayer breaks. There is ao much downtime at these things already.

From Judeling:
thanks Eric
Pawlenty will have to go negative if only for future earnings.
I don’t see how Otto can go on, Walz/Murphy will be a relative lovefest and Painter a sideshow with the energy on the governors race.
The DFL will be in a great position for the general.
From Dan:
That’s a good point about Dayton in the primary. If Walz can’t pull it off, Pawlenty will be governor. No way Murphy wins a starewide race.

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