Rep. Steve Simon of Hopkins won DFL endorsement for secretary of state at the party’s convention in Duluth Saturday afternoon.
Despite its down-ticket status, Simon’s race — against Rep. Debra Hilstrom — was of far more interest than at most conventions because it was the only competitive race at an otherwise ho-hum convention.
And because it was the only competitive race, it was surrounded by all sorts of political scuttlebutt and rumor-mongering.
Brooklyn Center’s Hilstrom apparently was receiving campaign advice from former DFL gubernatorial candidate Mike Hatch.
She was expected to get strong support from Iron Range delegates because Simon has taken positions on mining that Rangers see as unfriendly.
Hilstrom indirectly attacked Simon on his refusal to push forward a bill that would have given access to voting to 50,000 Minnesota felons who have served their sentences. (Simon, who supports expanding access, had not pushed the legislation forward because it did not have bipartisan support and Gov. Mark Dayton said he would veto voting legislation that does not have support of members of both parties.)
Turns out Simon had a pretty powerful trump card for every turn Hilstrom could make.
He was introduced by longtime Secretary of State Joan Growe.
“I’m Joan Growe,’’ she said at the start of what was to be a short introductory speech.
The delegates rose and applauded long and enthusiastically before she even had a chance to say she was on hand to “proudly introduce the next secretary of state.’’
Any doubts about Simon were swept away. He won after just one ballot. No vote total was released.
“I want to pay tribute Deb Hilstrom,’’ Simon said. “We have not heard the last of Debra Hilstrom.’’
Simon talked about his own future campaign.
“The name of the game is ballot access for all Minnesotans,’’ Simon said. “That’s what we have to do going forward.’’
He said it would be “a cold day in hell or a warm day in Duluth’’ before Minnesotans allow “chipping away’’ at limiting opportunities to vote.
Additionally, of course, all incumbent statewide office holders were endorsed. Auditor Rebecca Otto, attorney general Lori Swanson won endorsement without opposition. Later in the day, Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken were to receive endorsement.