Posted at 9:58 AM on June 2, 2012
by Catharine Richert
Filed under: Campaign 2012, Campaign 2012: Presidential Race, Campaign 2012: U.S. Senate, Marriage Amendment, Political parties, Voter ID Amendment
ROCHESTER - The state DFL convention is underway. There's not much suspense about the main order of business-- endorsing U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar for a second term.
DFL party chair Ken Martin welcomed delegates Saturday morning by urging them to re-elect Klobuchar and President Barack Obama, and to defeat two constitutional amendments that will be on the ballot this fall.
"President Obama has asked all of us if we are in for 2012," Martin said. "I want President Obama to know that we have heard him and his call to action."
The crowd responded with shouts of, "I'm in!"
Martin said DFLers must vote against the two constitutional amendments, one that would require Minnesotans to show identification at the polls before they can vote and another that would define marriage as between a man and a woman.
"Who are we, as a people, to tell two committed, loving same-sex individuals that they cannot marry each other?" Martin said. "What kind of state do we want to leave to our children?"
Groups opposing both amendments have a noticeable presence at the convention, taking down delegate information, and passing out buttons and signs.
Martin also used his opening speech to attack the Minnesota Republican Party, which has been troubled by financial woes and leadership turnover.
The DFL party is united while Republicans are "in disarray," Martin said. The Republican party has been "beset by scandal, riddled with debt, and torn apart at the seams by infighting," he said.
ROCHESTER -- In his speech to delegates at the DFL convention, Gov. Mark Dayton said the party must make rebuilding majorities in the Legislature its priority this election year.
Dayton said he will do everything he can to win both chambers, whether it be fundraising or campaigning.
"I always tell candidates I'll do whatever helps them the most," Dayton said. "I'll campaign for them, I'll campaign against them, whichever does the most good."
Though candidates will be counting on Dayton to help them win this year, in 2010 Dayton wasn't allowed to speak at the DFL convention. This year, he was welcomed warmly by the party and the delegates.
The episode two years ago is "history," Dayton said. "I'm just glad to get such an enthusiastic reception."
During his speech, Dayton reflected on what the Legislature might look like had there been a Republican Governor, quoting Tom Emmer, the GOP candidate Dayton narrowly defeated in 2010.
"An Emmer administration would make Wisconsin look like the poor, ugly stepchild that they are," Dayton said.
Dayton said there would have been $200 billion more in spending cuts, more pollution, collective bargaining would have been "eviscerated" and Minnesota would be a "right-to-work" state.
With a DFL majority and governor, Minnesotans can count on higher taxes on the wealthiest, property taxes would be lower, and public education would improve - all issues DFL candidates and liberal groups campaigning for them will be highlighting this election season.
Hear the rest of Dayton's speech here: Listen
Photo Credit: Gov. Mark Dayton speaks to delagates at the DFL state convention in Rochester Saturday, Jun. 2, 2012. (Alex Kolyer for MPR)(2 Comments)
After entering the convention hall to "We Take Care of Our Own," a song from Bruce Springsteen's newest album, Klobuchar thanked the crowd for their endorsement and said she would continue to do what's best for the state.
"I will continue to fight for what's right, and I will always, always put Minnesota first," Klobuchar said.
Her endorsement comes as no surprise. Polls show the incumbent enjoys wide support in the state.
In her speech, Klobuchar pointed to some of her achievements in the Senate so far, including her work to secure assistance to rebuild the I-35W bridge, which collapsed shortly after she took office, her work on toy safety and a bill that was recently passed that ensures returning Minnesota National Guard soldiers get government benefits.
"It shouldn't take an act of Congress to fix this, but they needed one, and I got it done," Klobuchar said referring to the troops bill.
Klobuchar's critics have said that she focuses on minor issues and seldom gets in front of more contentious debates
Notably missing from Klobuchar's speech was any reference to her opponent, state Rep. Kurt Bills, who won the GOP's nomination in May.
Bills, who was endorsed by Ron Paul, supports some of the policies supported by the former GOP presidential candidate. If elected, Bills says he will shrink the nation's debt and deficit, and scale back the federal government, pledging to eliminate four federal departments. Among other things, Bills would also institute a flat tax and limit Social Security payments for the wealthy.
In contrast, Klobuchar said Washington needs to embrace a mix of tax increases and spending cuts to shrink the nation's deficit. If re-elected, Klobuchar said she would focus on trimming subsidies for oil companies and support policies aimed at the middle class.
"Do we go backward to the same old policies that sent us into the downward spiral that sent us into the great recession," she said. "Or do we go forward to build up America?"
Hear the rest of her speech here: Listen
Photo Credit: U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar greets delagates during her entrance at the DFL state convention in Rochester Saturday, Jun. 2, 2012. Klobuchar won the DFL endorsement and will face Kurt Bills in the upcoming election. (Alex Kolyer for MPR)(1 Comments)
With just five months until the general election, DFL delegates say they are confident that their candidates at the top of the ticket will have no trouble winning Minnesota this November.
Matt Toburen of Minneapolis is among those who say President Barack Obama and Sen. Amy Klobuchar are shoo-ins.
"I think Minnesota will go strongly for Barack Obama and Amy Klobuchar this year," he said.
Mike Quinn of Rochester shares Toburen's optimism.
"I don't think Minnesota is going to go anywhere but with Obama and Klobuchar," he said, adding that he believes the top of the ticket will help the DFL win majorities in the Legislature as well.
But not everyone at the convention believes that Obama and Klobuchar have flawless records.
Beth Walters of Sauk Rapids said she wished both had done more for labor unions. And she expressed some disappointment with the new health care law.
"I think the health care reform was a good first step, but I think it needed to go further," Walters said.
While the crowd has legitimate reasons to be optimistic - both Klobuchar and Obama are so far enjoying strong support in the state - party leaders have warned against over confidence.
"No one is taking the president's election for granted starting with the president, who expects a very tough campaign. Certainly not Amy [Klobuchar], who is working harder than anybody," said Gov. Mark Dayton. "Everybody has spent the last two years in the minority, and with all the frustrations involved with that, there's no complacency whatsoever."
Some delegates are more concerned about passage of two constitutional amendments on the ballot, one that would require voters to show identification at the polls, and another that would define marriage between a man and a woman.
Quinn said he's confident Minnesotans will reject the marriage amendment, because voters don't want to change the state's constitution.
But voter ID is on shakier ground, he said.
"I think you have a lot of people on both sides, probably even a lot of Democrats, who don't quite understand what the problem is in regards to the election ballot," said Quinn. "I think we have to do a lot more to get them to understand that it is difficult to get older people and students their notification of having an ID like that especially in a short period of time close to an election period."