Hutchinson, team cruise to IP endorsementby Laura McCallum, Minnesota Public Radio
Public policy consultant Peter Hutchinson overwhelmingly won the Independence Party endorsement for governor on Saturday. About 275 IP delegates -- fewer than party officials had predicted -- endorsed a slate of candidates for statewide office at an unconventional state convention at Midway Stadium in St. Paul. As the St. Paul Saints held batting practice on the field, Hutchinson told delegates that Minnesota has been hijacked by the partisan extremes.
St. Paul, Minn. — Independence Party officials said they wanted their state convention to be different from the other two major parties -- and it was. Delegates could get their photos taken with Cody the buffalo, eat brats before the baseball game, and enjoy the home of the St. Paul Saints.
The weather sort of cooperated. The skies were mostly clear, until Hutchinson and running mate Maureen Reed captured 90 percent of the vote on the first ballot. A light rain began falling as Hutchinson took the stage to say that he wouldn't run the state like Republicans and Democrats would.
"The other two parties have nominated the most polarizing candidates in recent memory to carry on their blood feud over political control of our state," Hutchinson said. "And while they feud, the people of Minnesota suffer."
Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty is seeking a second term, while Democrats have endorsed Attorney General Mike Hatch.
Pawlenty's campaign manager said in a statement that Hutchinson's views are the same as the DFLers, and Pawlenty is the only candidate who will protect the taxpayer and crack down on illegal immigration.
Hutchinson said he doesn't think the state needs to raise general state taxes, although he says he would have signed a bill raising the state's gas tax by 10 cents a gallon. He's stressing the issues of education, health care, transportation and the environment, but said he's not just like the Democrats.
"The Democrats came out of their convention with their guy saying, I'm going to find a billion dollars so I can spend more money on these things. We're not saying that," Hutchinson said. "We're saying the money is there to do this, and you don't get it from outside the system, you get it from inside the system."
Hutchinson said there are cost savings in the state's health care system, and said his lieutenant governor candidate will find them. Maureen Reed is a physician who served as medical director for HealthPartners, and was also a University of Minnesota regent.
Hutchinson won the IP endorsement over political activist Pam Ellison, who said she'll run in the September primary. Ellison had campaign signs that read "Elect the Authentic Independent." She railed against state officials whose partisan fighting led to last year's partial government shutdown.
"We need to stop the stupid playground fighting and learn to get along in the sandbox," said Ellison. "We need to accept these simple things from our elected officials, or we need to vote them out!"
Independence Party delegates also endorsed Robert Fitzgerald for U.S. Senate. Fitzgerald, 29, is a former administrator for public access television who said Minnesota should elect a young guy to the Senate who could work his way up in seniority.
"As a U.S. senator, I will do everything in my power to return fiscal accountability to the halls of Congress in Washington. I will demand accountability from our goverment," Fitzgerald said. "And I swear to you that I will tell the truth."
The Constitution requires senators to be at least 30 years of age. Fitzgerald will turn 30 after the election, but before he would be sworn in if elected.
Fitzgerald won the endorsement over Jim Haviland and Steve Williams. Williams said he'll probably run in the primary.
Delegates also endorsed former revenue commissioner John James for attorney general, Minneapolis deputy police chief Lucy Gerold for state auditor and Brooklyn Park economic development director Joel Spoonheim for secretary of state.
Eight years ago, the Independence Party candidate for governor, Jesse Ventura, won the race, but four years ago, IP candidate Tim Penny captured just 16 percent of the vote.
- Morning Edition, 06/26/2006, 7:20 a.m.