A fish fry, live auction and speeches livened the evening Monday at a DFL fundraiser at the Bemidji Eagles Aerie. Speakers included candidates for governor, state officeholders and local legislators.
Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, and Matt Entenza pitched their candidacies for governor, and Peter Hecomovich spoke representing candidate Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook.
Other speakers were Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, Secretary of State Matt Ritchie, Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, And Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji.
Rukavina said he comes from a blue-collar background of trucking and logging.
"I know what it's like on a 40-below morning to change a fuel pump on a skidder," he said.
He also said he grew up being told that if he works hard he deserves to be paid fairly and receive health care and a pension.
Entenza applauded the DFL turnout, saying the Bemidji area is a dynamic party stronghold.
"We need a governor who's going to be here for the people," he said.
He drew applause when he said, "The first day I'm governor, I'm going to put out an executive order and No Child Left Behind is gone."
Like many of the speakers, he touched on health-care reform, referring to his plan as "Medicare for all."
Ritchie also praised the DFLers' spirit.
"I want to thank you for being part of this democracy and part of this process," he said.
Ritchie noted the close elections in 2008. "We're a state where no one can miss the fact that every single vote counts," he said.
Swanson also focused on health-care reform. She said when she became attorney general, her office received 400 calls a day complaining about bad business practices. Now, she said, she receives 800 calls a day, mostly relating to health-care practices and special interests that put people in situations where they can't afford heart medicine for a child or hearing aids for a 91-year-old.
Hecomovich said Bakk's priority is jobs. He said Bakk experienced being out of a job and without health care in a previous recession, so his candidate understands people's problems.
"He feels he is the best person to handle the issues right now," Hecomovich said.
Olson said health care is one of her legislative concerns, and she has served on some committees dealing with that issue.
"The special interests are still pulling a lot of weight," she said, citing insurance companies that look for profit, but dodge risk.
She said she wouldn't endorse any gubernatorial candidate until the convention, but she will be listening carefully to each candidate's positions on issues.
Persell said he is convinced the DFL will elect a Democratic governor next election, "but it's going to take all of us working together. I think the biggest decision we have is who can we elect statewide."
Meg Bye, who ran against Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, in the last election, declared her intention to run again.
The walleye and wild rice for the dinner were donated by the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, and the speakers auctioned off donated items to raise funds for the DFL.
An American flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20, the day President Barack Obama was inaugurated, was the auction item that brought in the most money.