The State DFL Central Committee endorsed Sunday John Gunyou as its lieutenant governor, running with gubernatorial endorsee House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher.
Gunyou, the city manager for Minnetonka, is a former finance director under Republican Gov. Arne Carlson and Democrat Minneapolis Mayor Don Fraser.
The Central Committee, meeting at Bemidji High School, gave its near unanimous endorsement of Gunyou -- one Clay County delegate opposed.
With no endorsement at last month's State DFL Convention for lieutenant governor, it was up to Kelliher to nominate one and have that choice ratified by the DFL Central Committee, said Brian Melendez, party chairman.
"John is a life-long public servant," said Kelliher of Minneapolis. "John has earned his reputation. His reputation is as an expert in public finance in the state of Minnesota."
He developed his reputation by "always telling the truth about the state budget," Kelliher said. "We need to regain that budget stability ... To do that is to keep our promise to strive for a vibrant economy, getting jobs growing in this state again."
Gunyou wasted no time in defining the ticket's opponents.
"I've been a persistent critic of the Pawlenty administration for a number of years," he said of Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Doing so has earned him a spot on the "Democrats Exposed" Web site, which he said he wears "as a badge of honor."
And, "I firmly believe that Tom Emmer would be an utter disaster for our state," Gunyou said.
Emmer, the state representative from Delano, is the Republican endorsee for governor. He was in Bemidji on Friday night for a Beltrami Republicans dinner.
"We can paint a very clear picture of the consequences of four more years of reckless Republican rule," he said.
He told the storyline of a "Twilight Zone" episode where a man wakes up "to a world of potholes, shuttered schools and soup lines, and that's not the world I want to live in. That's not the Minnesota I want to live in."
Pawlenty's "meat cleaver budget cuts have undercut working families and hurt students," Gunyou said. "I'm incredulous that Tom Emmer wants to cut our public services another 30 percent on top of what's already happened."
Kelliher faces an Aug. 10 primary challenge from former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton and former House Minority Leader Matt Entenza, both with substantial individual resources.
"Margaret and I have always had to work for a living," Gunyou said. "We have walked a mile in middle class shoes."
Minnesota needs a governor with the courage to do the right thing, Gunyou said. "Minnesota's environment I most believe in includes strong schools, good jobs, a sound infrastructure and social justice. It's what I've been working for my entire life."
The state could start the next biennium with a $5 billion to $8 billion deficit. Kelliher said in an interview that Gunyou would play a role in working with budget framers, but would not become a commissioner of finance or the like.
"Now is the time for a new leadership," she said.
Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji, welcomed delegates to Bemidji.
"Margaret led the charge in standing up to Gov. Pawlenty and insisting that we respect what is fundamental to our Constitution -- the independence of our three separate branches of government," Olson said.
Weeks before the session ended, the Minnesota Supreme Court called Pawlenty's unallotments of last summer unconstitutional, putting another $2.7 billion of debt back on lawmakers' laps.
"For that, our state for generations to come is going to owe her a huge debt of gratitude," Olson said, referring that the DFL-led House filed a friend of the court brief enjoining it to the Supreme Court case.
"Now, she has selected someone to be her lieutenant governor who is an expert in the area of public finance, someone who is respected on both sides of the aisle for his wisdom in making certain that we have long-term financial stability within our state budget," she said.
Citing the phrase "you get what you pay for," Olson noted under the Ventura and Pawlenty administrations have pushed hard decisions onto future generations.
Olson later held a fundraiser walleye feed at the Bemidji Eagles Club, which drew several Twin Cities area senators and members of the DFL Central Committee.
Former Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, DFL-Erskine, emceed the affair, which was also Olson's birthday.