Well, this has been a memorable DFL convention. A fairly normal Friday evening agenda gave way to a crazy Saturday of events.
The shock of the day came early with the out of the blue endorsement of Matt Pelikan over incumbent Lori Swanson for DFL Attorney General.
Swanson has had a strained relationship with the progressive wing of the DFL and Matt Pelikan highlighted that point in a rousing speech to the convention. He made Swanson’s high NRA rating a cornerstone of his questions and even took on what he considered her weak settlements with corporations.
Swanson compounded the problem by sending Mike Hatch to the podium to defend those accusations, while not speaking herself during the presentation on her behalf. Hatch gave a somewhat rambling and convoluted defense that was more technical than passionate and turned a potential respectable showing for Pelikan into a shockingly close vote total.
Swanson wanted no part of a drawn out fight and pulled out of the endorsement battle entirely. Which leads to a lot of speculation regarding her next move. As a Mike Hatch protege, the goal has always seemed to be a run for the governor slot that Hatch could never pull off. That could happen now.
Still, the most logical course would be for her to run in the primary against a weakly funded Pelikan. A contest in which she would have to be favored. So, we shall have to wait and see the path she takes.
Then came the contest for Governor. Another wild ride that took 6 ballots. Walz was the favorite going in but after the first ballot he only led Erin Murphy 41% to 39%. Murphy’s momentum had hit the floor – and the victim seemed to be Rebecca Otto who started with a weak 18%.
Otto soon left but worked behind the scenes for advantage. As Murphy pulled slightly ahead in numbers, Walz and Otto opted for a no endorsement strategy – which was an unprecedented goal, given the fact that the whole idea of a convention is to endorse a candidate.
The convention began to wear down that strategy and slowly moved the numbers toward a Murphy win. Prior to the 6th ballot, Walz withdrew and Erin Murphy was endorsed by acclimation.
Since Walz had already indicated that he would go to primary if he did not get the endorsement, the no endorsement strategy must have been a somewhat desperate attempt for the Otto campaign to join that contest without the baggage of an endorsement promise she made.
Rumors were rampant about other candidates joining the primary field. Lori Swanson was in the mix and even Tom Bakk fueled some speculation that he would join as well.
All of the speculation does not diminish what Erin Murphy accomplished here. She ran a dogged campaign. She worked hard on outstate delegates. She was bold in her progressive assertions. She beat the odds and moves into the next phase with some clear momentum.
It was a wild and captivating convention. This year has been a little crazy.