Another DFL endorsing convention, another Dayton challenge

Mark Dayton will have a difficult time selling himself to DFL voters as the next Wellstone given his shy demeanor and his less-than-stellar speaking skills.
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
Mark Dayton will have a difficult time selling himself to DFL voters as the next Wellstone given his shy demeanor and his less-than-stellar speaking skills.

At the recent DFL endorsing convention in Duluth, Mark Dayton was denied a pass that would have given him access to the convention floor. Ten years ago, at another statewide DFL conclave, Dayton may not have suffered the same snub but he was persona non grata at both events, nonetheless.

At both conventions, he angered many DFL partisans by pledging to run against the party’s endorsed candidate. While there are similarities between Dayton’s 2000 and 2010 election challenges, there are important differences as well. To begin with, the former DFL party official is running for a different office this year. Today, he wants to be the state’s next governor. Then, he sought to unseat Minnesota’s incumbent U.S. senator, Rod Grams.

Then, as now, Dayton faced a wealthy, self-financed challenger in the DFL primary.

Then, the challenger was Mike Ciresi. This year, Matt Entenza plays that role.

But now, in 2010, Dayton faces a much different DFL endorsed candidate than he did in 2000. Then, the party selected an obscure state senator from the Iron Range, Jerry Janezich, as its standard barrier. Janezich was virtually unknown in the Twin Cities at the time that he received the Senate endorsement, and he struggled to generate support and campaign funds. His dismal third-place showing in the September primary cast a shadow over the entire DFL endorsement process.

Better-known opponent
Today, the much better-known Margaret Anderson Kelliher has received the DFL gubernatorial endorsement. As speaker of the Minnesota House, Kelliher has a statewide public profile and the unified support of the DFL Party establishment. In 2000, Janezich lacked that support, even with the party’s endorsement, when some influential party leaders opted to support Ceresi.

In 2000, Dayton had served one term in public office as state auditor, a low profile position that attracted little public attention. Now he is saddled with his lack-luster performance in the high profile job of U.S. senator, a job he gave up in 2006 and would probably have lost if he decided to run for reelection. In 2010, moreover, his recent admission of his struggles with alcoholism and depression has not enhanced in his public image.

Ten years ago, Dayton received favorable public exposure for his highly publicized efforts to help Minnesota seniors obtain low-cost prescription drugs in Canada. He used the issue of prescription drug costs to launch some effective TV ads which tied his candidacy to the issue of health care reform. Now, with the passage of the Obama health care overhaul plan, Dayton no longer has that issue to drive his candidacy.

This year he is making an effort to fashion himself as a fervent progressive, in the Paul Wellstone model. But Dayton will have a difficult time selling himself to DFL voters as the next Wellstone given his shy demeanor and his less-than-stellar speaking skills.

At this early stage in the DFL primary battle, Anderson Kelliher is probably the front-runner for the DFL nomination, even in the face of the millions that Dayton and Entenza are likely to plough into their own campaigns.

If the speaker of the House triumphs over her two male challengers in the August primary, she will face a bruising general election campaign when she comes up against the Republican’s likely nominee, fiery Tom Emmer, who just received his party’s endorsement.

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by linda higgins on 05/08/2010 - 11:53 am.

    It’s Ciresi.

  2. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 05/08/2010 - 01:36 pm.

    And the California born Entenza is no Mike Ciresi.

  3. Submitted by Turo Phile on 05/08/2010 - 03:23 pm.

    “the party selected an obscure state senator from the Iron Range, Jerry Janezich, as its standard barrier”

    Standard Barrier – intentional word slip?

  4. Submitted by Patrick Guernsey on 05/08/2010 - 08:17 pm.

    This is a real odd analysis. When Mark Dayton revealed his battles with depression and alcohol, he actually surged in the polls. His senate term was at a time when the GOP controlled all 3 branches of the federal government. I don’t think you will find too many who will say anybody serving in the U.S. Senate during that period did a very good job. I am looking forward to an election where we have a candidate who is not afraid to push for fair taxation in this state. Someone who doesn’t have to bow to special interests to finance his campaign. I think Mark Dayton is a true populist who cannot be bought!

  5. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/10/2010 - 07:04 am.

    I am not convinced that Margaret is as well known statewide as the chattering and political classes in St. Paul seem to think. Her campaign doesn’t have a message other than “making history” whatever that might mean.

    I saw Dayton wandering the convention hall and like the good party regular I am, took the opportunity to snub him. He is not someone I want my party to turn to, but the goal of electing a DFL governor takes precedence over electing any particular candidate governor, at least in this case where all the candidates are at least adequate. As the endorsed candidate, Margaret has first claim on my support, and a window of opportunity to demonstrate she can beat Tom Emmer, but if she doesn’t do that, I will look elsewhere.

    The Entenza campaign has been something of a mystery to me. I assumed his extraordinary riches would make him a formidable candidate. That might still happen, but so far his campaign has been listless, and the candidate seemingly disinterested. As a result, there are articles written about Dayton like the one above, but not many written about Matt. That may be a timing issue, Matt saving his fire for a time closer to the election. But the primary is early, and like Margaret, he may not have the name recognition he thinks he has, and without the endorsement, and without the opportunity to be in the news Margaret has, for better or worse, he has more ground to make up.

Leave a Reply