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DFL bans Dayton from convention floor

Gary Fuller of Red Lake, a Beltrami County delegate. thinks about an issue on his platform ballot at the Minnesota DFL Convention Friday in Duluth. Fuller, at his first state convention, is part of the reNEW Minnesota effort to elect a progressive governor. Pioneer Photo/Don Davis

DULUTH -- Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party officials rejected a request from former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, now a governor candidate, to talk to delegates on their state convention floor.

So Dayton chatted with delegates in the hallways of the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center and talked to reporters, where he said the DFL move "is very petty."

"This party is big enough for everybody," said Dayton, who added that he has donated large amounts of his personal wealth to the party over the years.

DFL Executive Director Andrew O'Leary said that Dayton was offered the same floor access as other candidates, but only if he took part in today's endorsement process. Instead, Dayton has said since he became a candidate that he will take his case to hundreds of thousands of primary election voters instead of the 1,400 delegates at the state convention.

Other candidates worked the floor Friday afternoon, the convention's first day, looking for uncommitted delegates in what is expected to be a close endorsement race today. Dayton, meanwhile, was relegated to mostly deserted hallways outside of the convention itself.

Democratic and Republican officials prefer candidates to be involved in the endorsement process instead of running in the primary election.

A state convention endorsement does not mean that candidate will represent the party in the November election. Candidates may skip the endorsement, like Dayton has, or ignore the convention's decision and move on to the Aug. 10 primary election regardless of how they do in the endorsement.

"We are very respectful of the senator's decision," DFL spokesman Donald McFarland said.

Reminded of Dayton's gifts over the years, McFarland added: "Certainly, the senator is a great friend of the DFL."

That is not how Dayton, who has attended DFL conventions since 1976, saw it on Friday.

"I was astounded that he would be so petty," Dayton said of DFL Chairman Brian Melendez.

The former senator, who also has held several state posts, said he never intended to speak to the convention or even be there today, when delegates are to endorse a candidate. All he wanted, he said, was to talk to delegates on the convention floor Friday.

"I don't know why the DFL Party should be afraid," he said.

The dust-up will not affect party unity, Dayton said. "We will be a united party on Aug. 11."

Entenza resentment

Dayton was not the only candidate who upset some party members.

Former state Rep. Matt Entenza of St. Paul is seeking today's endorsement, but for weeks has looked forward to the primary election. That does not sit well with some delegates who want candidates to abide by the endorsement.

Delegate Tony St. Michael of Dilworth, who has not decided what candidate to support, said it will not be Entenza because he will not abide by the convention's decision today.

Many other delegates said the same thing, but not those from the Worthington area, where Entenza grew up.

Delegate Margaret Erickson said most delegates from that area back Entenza, a former state House minority leader.

"Members of his family were well loved, well respected," she said.

Entenza, working the convention floor, said he would have abided by the endorsement had other major candidates agreed to, but Dayton did not so he felt he needed to run in the primary election.

Entenza has begun a series of television advertisements in the Twin Cities and Duluth areas and next week plans radio commercials in the Moorhead, Rochester, Mankato, Grand Forks and St. Cloud areas, the first major advertising spending in the governor's race.

No contests

Today's governor endorsement contest is bound to be long and hard-fought; not so much for three statewide offices DFL delegates considered Friday.

The endorsements of three incumbents, Attorney General Lori Swanson, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and State Auditor Rebecca Otto, came and went with little fanfare.

Savior woes

Not only does Ole Savior have few supporters in his bid for governor, but on the night before the convention started his car windshield was broken at an area casino.

There was no report about whether any of the 70,000 red-and-blue fliers he had printed were missing.

Savior, a Minneapolis artist, runs for some office every two years.

Refreshingly Rukavina

State Rep. Tom Rukavina's campaign slogan is "refreshingly honest," but some say he may be a bit too honest in at least one area: his underwear.

The Virginia lawmaker dragged a trio of reporters to his booth at the DFL convention, where supporters were selling American-made underwear for $20 (boxers, if you must know). And when a reporter joked about proving if he wore American shorts, he started to pull the label up from behind his dress pants.

Too much information, the reporters said, and the governor candidate turned to talking about himself.

"I'm being myself," he said of his convention campaigning. "I can connect to common, ordinary folks."

Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.