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Beltrami County DFL Convention delegate Skip Finn rises to motion that state convention delegates be chosen by proportional voting, meaning the use of walking subcaucuses, a procedure used to provide more minority representation but which created a stir when used Sunday by the convention. Pioneer Photo/Brad Swenson

Tom Rukavina takes three delegates in contested process

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Disgruntled delegates walked out of the Beltrami County DFL Convention on Sunday when a dispute arose over delegate selection.

"This isn't the Soviet Union," said Karen Thissen, wife of Democrat gubernatorial candidate Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis.

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Convention Chairman Steve Nelson ruled out of order efforts to question his ruling on the validity of subcaucuses, a ruling that left 16 delegates without a voice in selecting state convention delegates.

In the end, Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, took three of Beltrami County's six delegates, while the remaining six will go to the April 23-25 State DFL Convention in Duluth as uncommitted delegates.

Delegate Skip Finn, during debate on setting convention rules, motioned that proportional voting be mandated for state convention delegate selection. He argued that the process allows for greater minority participation.

The motion passed, and two hours later, when time came to elect delegates, the convention split into 7th Congressional District and 8th Congressional District units, as Beltrami County is split between the two congressional districts.

The 8th District had two delegates to elect, so the use of proportional voting became moot. Finn, an 8th District delegate, however, had offered his motion as part of the convention rules, making proportional voting stick for 7th District delegate selection.

Proportional voting means the use of walking subcaucuses, where a group of delegates can declare their support for a candidate or as uncommitted delegates in support of a particular issue. They are given time to woo other delegates to their corner until the floor is frozen and a count taken.

The total number of delegates divided by the number of subcaucuses yields the minimum number of delegates needed to keep the subcaucus viable, according to the DFL Call.

A second and final round of walking is done to move delegates from dissolved subcaucuses to viable ones, and the floor is frozen again. The state delegates are then apportioned to the remaining viable subcaucuses.

In this case, two subcaucuses were declared non-viable after the second round, each with eight delegates, when Nelson declared that nine delegates would be the minimum. He earlier had said eight would be the minimum, which would have allowed "Thissen/health care" and "Uncommitted/jobs" to have state delegates.

Many questioned Nelson's move to up the viability number from eight to nine delegates, with Karen Thissen saying she allowed a delegate to leave the Thissen camp when she thought eight would be enough for a state convention delegate.

Finn unsuccessfully tried to appeal the ruling, but Nelson ruled it out of order.

The delegate selection started with a delegate count of 55 7th District delegates, yielding the eight minimum delegates needed for a viable subcaucus, according to the first and early credentials report.

A second credentials report came during the selection, after 10 walking subcaucuses were offered and delegates were on the move. That second report showed 58 7th District delegates, causing Nelson to move the viability number to nine delegates.

When the discrepancy became apparent, Nelson got a flurry of questions from the floor to explain what happened and to confirm what the viability number was. His call for a motion to allow another two minutes for delegates to move around was denied by the convention, leaving the two subcaucuses without a state delegate.

A group of those delegates shouted at the podium, and left the convention even though it hadn't yet adjourned. Several referred to a similar action in 2008 under which a subcaucus for Jack Nelson Pallmeyer for U.S. Senate was dissolved without a state delegate.

Also adding to the confusion was an organized effort by Take Action MN to steer delegates to uncommitted ranks, hoping to build a bloc at the state convention.

Rukavina was the only candidate to secure delegates, with two from the 7th District in Nelson and Rita Albrecht.

"Uncommitted/diversity at the state convention" got three delegates in Kathryn "Jody" Beaulieu, Nicole Beaulieu and Greg Paquin. "Uncommitted/health care for all" got two delegates in Arlys Stillday and Gary Fuller.

The process was smoother in the 8th District where there were 28 delegates, as elected were Joe Gould as a Rukavina delegate and Pam McCrory as uncommitted.

Subcaucuses for Thissen, Sen. Tom Bakk, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Sen. John Marty and House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher

In other business, DFLer elected five people to the Beltrami County DFL Executive Committee: Stephanie Cobenais, Jon Jorstad, Kathryn ":Jody" Beaulieu, Anna Sherwood and Chris Brown.

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