ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — When Minnesota Democrats open their state convention in Rochester, drama won't be on the agenda.
The 1,200 delegates will endorse Gov. Tim Walz, Attorney General Keith Ellison, Secretary of State Steve Simon and State Auditor Julie Blaha for reelection. They’re all running unopposed for the party’s backing. So the convention, which starts Friday, will be mostly a pep rally to fire up activists for the midterm election season and a campaign training session to help overcome the headwinds the party is facing .
It's likely to contrast with last weekend's wild Republican state convention in the same building, the Mayo Civic Center. It took GOP delegates nine ballots to endorse Scott Jensen for governor in an acrimonious contest in which the lead changed hands three times.
‘While we won’t have as many fireworks as the Republicans did at their convention, there's certainly going to be a lot of excitement," Ken Martin, chairman of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, said in an interview.
Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan will speak to delegates Friday, when they'll be endorsed for a second term. The governor said he'll emphasize their successes in managing Minnesota through the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting challenges.
“The message is that Minnesota has come through some of the toughest years that we’ve seen, and we’ve done so as well as any state in the union,” Walz told The Associated Press. “We’ve done it by compromise and by vision. And I’m going to make the case that, give us four more years on this, we’ll continue to move in the right direction.”
Ellison, Simon and Blaha will get the delegates' blessings on Saturday. Sunday will feature more training for delegates and other activists on organizing and mobilizing, and approving the party platform.
Martin said he expects the Democratic candidates and VIPs such as U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith to highlight the party's accomplishments and agenda for the future. But he acknowledged that there will likely be plenty of criticism of Jensen and the other GOP candidates for statewide office, whom Democrats consider extreme.
“It's very clear coming out of the convention that the Republican Party in this state, there's a deep division there. In a year like this, where the Democrats are facing some headwinds, if (Republicans are) going to win their first statewide office since 2006, they can't afford to be divided,” Martin said.
No Republican has won statewide office in Minnesota since Gov. Tim Pawlenty was reelected in 2006. But Republicans are hoping that a rise in violent crime and the country's economic difficulties, including soaring inflation and supply-chain problems, will make voters receptive to their message.
Pandemic precautions will also be a major difference between the two parties' conventions. There was hardly a mask in sight at the GOP gathering. But the Democrats are requiring attendees to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination and to get tested for the disease on-site.