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Klobuchar nearly sweeps Beltrami DFL delegates

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate frontrunner Amy Klobuchar nearly swept the delegate slate elected Sunday at the Beltrami County DFL Convention.

Delegates also staved off an attempt to subdivide the group in order to give more support to an anti-war, "Peace First" minority coalition.

Had that been successful, the move would have benefited Klobuchar's challenger for DFL endorsement, Twin Cities veterinarian Ford Bell, who has made the pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq by year's end his campaign cornerstone.

The view was less clear in delegates for four gubernatorial candidates, with none taking a lead.

With Beltrami County sending eight delegates to the State DFL Convention in June, Hennepin County Attorney Klobuchar picked up seven from the 86 voting convention goers.

The lone dissenting delegate, Jim Heltzer, who is also a Beltrami County commissioner, wouldn't say who he would vote for as a delegate, saying "the war in Iraq is the chief issue and we need to get out. I would vote for the candidate making that clear."

Bell spoke to the delegates Sunday afternoon at the Northern Inn, while Rep. Frank Moe, DFL-Bemidji, stood in for Klobuchar, issuing strong support for her candidacy.

Bell said that while 2,600 Americans have died in Iraq, Iraqi civilian casualties exceed 100,000. And the United States is spending $6 billion a month on the war.

"It's another example of the old, rich and powerful sending the young, poor and dutiful to war," Bell said.

Moe said Klobuchar would be a "tough fighter" to send against GOP U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy, the likely Republican senatorial candidate in the race to succeed DFL U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, who isn't seeking re-election.

She also carries a rural perspective on DFL bread and butter issues of health care, economic development and education, Moe said.

The convention agreed, electing seven state delegates who said they support Klobuchar -- Steve Newby, Lisa Boulay, Rita Albrecht, Julie Albrecht, Pam McCrory, Michael Meuers and Mike Simpkins.

Convention delegate Soren Sorensen of Port Hope Township attempted to use the DFL's walking subcaucus process to select delegates, but didn't receive the necessary one-eighth vote of the convention to do so.

He asked for the process as it would be ",more reflective of portions of this body. We need to trust that people who are elected represent the subcaucus." He had hoped to send delegates as uncommitted on candidates, and with peace as a cause.

The long, complicated process has delegates subcaucusing by candidates or issue causes. A subcaucus with fewer members than needed to represent one delegate must disband and join another subcaucus. Complicating the process is that the delegate slate must be gender balanced, or in Beltrami's case, four men and four women.

"The number of people here is so small, making a walking subcaucus unnecessary," argued Bemidji delegate John O'Boyle. "It is divisive and confusing and interferes with the main work of the convention."

Grant Valley Township delegate Marilyn Heltzer argued for the process, in that "a person who seeks to go to the state convention should stand up and say who they support, their candidate or cause. It doesn't have to be complicated."

With the walking subcaucus not receiving enough votes, the convention did approve a measure that congressional district and state delegate candidates say their preference for candidates in the various offices.

Sorensen sought a delegate slot from the 8th Congressional District, saying that although he would pledge to Bell for Senate and Sen. Becky Lourey in the governor's race, his intent is to vote for no endorsement in the first ballot as part of the strategy of Peace First, a Twin Cities-based coalition organized as Peace in the Precincts which seeks a unified force for peace.

The Peace First platform calls for voting for candidates who pledge to vote against all U.S. funding for military operations in Iraq, for generous funding of veterans benefits, and for U.S. financing of U.N.-administered reconstruction of Iraq.

"No endorsement on the first ballot would be a statement that the war is our first issue," Sorensen said.

The same eight elected delegates also gave their preferences in the race for governor, but that wasn't as clear, Two support Attorney General Mike Hatch and two support Sen. Steve Kelley, while four delegates said they were as yet undecided and remain uncommitted.

Hatch spoke to the delegates, as well as Lourey. Simpkins spoke on behalf of Kelley, but no one spoke for Twin Cities real estate developer Kelly Doran. Of the four, only Kelley has said he will support the DFL endorsement process.

The convention also elected eight alternates to further conventions, and they also stood with seven for Klobuchar and one who didn't indicate a preference. Two said they would support Hatch and one for Kelley, with five uncommitted.

Alternates elected were Diane Wahl, John McCarthy, Nicole Hughes, Linda Lemmer, Melissa Smith, Roy Nelson, Steve Nelson and Mike Stillday.

With Beltrami County split into two congressional districts, Newby and Boulay will be delegates to the 8th District DFL Convention in Duluth while the other six are delegates to the 7th District event which is April 22 in Bemidji.

The State DFL Convention is June 9-11 at Rochester, Minn.