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Many men enter, one woman leaves: The DFL endorsement for governor

ALSO: More sovereignty for Minnesota? Tim Pawlenty barely registering? Why can’t the Twins finish a three-game sweep?

It was Democratic Farm-Labor endorsement fever Saturday, if a day of stumping and speechifying and polling and concessions in Duluth can be described as “feverish.” We’re just going to go ahead and imagine it was a Thunderdome-like affair in which many potential candidates enter, but only one leaves. Spoiler ahead: The day’s victor was Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, as reported by Bill Salisbury of the Pioneer Press.
“DFLers, are you ready to make some history?”
Kelliher asked when she received the endorsement, but she had already made history: Kelliher is not only the first woman to be endorsed for governor by the DFL, but by any major political party in Minnesota. But then, we’ve never had a major party endorse a vampire either, at least knowingly (we’ve long had suspicions about Samuel Medary), and that didn’t stop Jonathon “The Impaler” Sharkey from running. In fact, as the University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics blog points out, Kelliher is rather unique in the Midwest: she is “only the third to appear from a major party across Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.”

Thanks to the series of tubes we call the Internet, it was actually possible to watch history in the making this past weekend. The convention kicked off Friday, and former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, who is a gubernatorial candidate but was not seeking the DFL endorsement, was refused a floor pass to the event. Tom Bakk backed Paul Thissen, which is something of a tongue twister. R.T Rybak spoke. Matt Entenza spoke, then pulled his name as candidate, at which moment Rep. Keith Ellison threw his support behind Rybak. There were more speeches. Aunty Entity informed everyone that if you bust a deal, you face the wheel. And then, as happens in Thunderdome, people started dropping.

John Marty dropped out. Tom Rukavina dropped out; he offered up a hilarious boutade, saying “I was the best progressive in this race, and there’s no damn doubt about it. But now I want you to vote for the second best progressive left in this race” — specifically, Kelliher. State Rep. Paul Thissen dropped out. Finally, Rybak conceded, and Thunderdome was over, leaving just Kelliher standing.

What should we know about her? According to her own web page, she stands for “strong schools; quality, accessible health care, safe roads and bridges, and providing every Minnesotan with the opportunity to succeed.” But that doesn’t tell us much — everybody stands for that, except, perhaps, for vampires. Project Smart Vote has her voting record. Let’s see: She opposed cyber-bullying; she’s in favor of legalizing medical marijuana; she voted to increase the minimum wage, and she supported the smoking ban.

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Sometimes you also learn a lot of about a candidate by who opposes them, and why. For instance, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, an anti-abortion group, calls her a “radical abortion advocate” and says that Kelliher “has a long history of toeing the line for the radical fringe of the abortion movement.” We were not aware that there was a radical fringe to the abortion movement, and wondered what this might mean, so we looked once again at Kelliher’s voting record. She voted no on a bill that would prohibit state funding for abortions, voted no on a bill that would prevent local governments from making monetary or in-kind grants to nonprofit organizations that provide abortions or are affiliated with abortion providers. And she voted no on another bill that sought to prevent state funding for abortions. We’re not sure this represents any sort of radical fringe — she was, after all, voting to maintain the status quo — but it certain won’t endear her to people opposed to abortion.

Of course, Kelliher just got the DFL nod, so we can probably expect more criticism of her to start sprouting up in the coming weeks; we’ll keep our eyes open. In the meanwhile, we promised to peek in on the debate regarding whether or not Rep. Michele Bachmann can fairly be characterized as being an “enabler” for right wing extremism, as the Southern Poverty Law Center declared her last week. Alas, there actually hasn’t been much of anything resembling debate — some of the responses, such as this comment from Free Republic, don’t even seem to make any sense: “LOL!!! Just painted a picture in my mind of the moonbats flying across the night sky like Valkyries.” The Other McCain blog, to its credit, actually digs into the details of the report, and find the SPLC’s accounting of extremist groups to be questionable, saying, “According to the SPLC’s math, then, state-by-state representation of these four organizations count as 184 ‘Patriot groups.’

But the truth is, there is a thin line between the rhetoric of extremists on the right and mainstream conservatism nowadays, all hinging on the 10th amendment, which has generated all sorts of fringy misconceptions about Americans somehow being “sovereign citizens” who are freed from the overreaching of the federal government. So when you hear there is a push to declare Minnesota a “sovereign state full of sovereign citizens,” and that this push cites the 10th Amendment and wants Minnesota free from the supposed overreaching of the federal government, well, you might think, here’s more fringe. Nope. According to Andy Birkey of the Minnesota Independent, this push is coming from Minnesota Senate Republicans.

A quick Tim Pawlenty note: The Associated Press offered up a piece on the governor titled “Pawlenty caught in shadow of possible ’12 GOP foes,” which isn’t terribly encouraging. The AP sums up the results of his as-yet-undeclared but nonetheless fairly constant campaigning for president: “[H]e’s barely registered in early preference polls among Republican faithful, drawing single-digit support during this year’s Conservative Political Action Committee and Southern Republican Leadership Conference straw ballots.” Also not encouraging.

In sports: “Poor situational hitting finally caught up to the Twins,” explains the Star Tribune’s La Velle E. Neal III, looking into why the team once again only managed two games out of what could have been a three game sweep.