By Rachel E. Stassen-Berger

After screening ten DFL candidates and one GOP candidate (Pat Anderson) Saturday, AFSCME Council 5 decided to give former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton its endorsement for governor.

The decision gives Dayton his first major endorsement and puts the union in the potentially awkward position of campaigning against the DFL endorsed candidate. Dayton has said he will run in a primary whether or not he gets the endorsement.

Traditionally, about 200 of the DFL's 1,200 delegates to state convention are AFSCME workers and, according to the Associated Press, about a third of all delegates are union members.

Here's what the union said about its endorsement:

(St. Paul) — Today, one of the state’s largest and most politically active unions – AFSCME Minnesota Council 5 – endorsed Mark Dayton for governor.

Union president Mike Buesing explains, “Mark Dayton is devoted to public service, like AFSCME members are. He’s been a public school teacher, a social worker, and he’s led three state agencies. Mark’s been a good boss and he’s got the experience to lead Minnesota out of its budget crisis. He wants our wealthiest citizens to pay their fair share of taxes so we can afford the vital public services that Minnesotans want and need during tough times. We believe Mark Dayton can make Minnesota work again.”

AFSCME Minnesota Council 5 hosted the first televised debate between gubernatorial candidates with 900 union members in the audience on Oct. 9. Then, on Oct. 24, the union’s executive board screened all 10 DFL candidates, as well as Republican candidate Pat Anderson. The candidates were weighed on working family issues and their electability.

“Mark Dayton has won statewide elections -- twice,” says Eliot Seide, director of AFSCME Council 5. “Minnesotans know and like Mark. That’s because he listens more than any other candidate. He wears his heart on his sleeve and it’s obvious that he cares about people.”

AFSCME’s endorsement is a big prize. The union spent nearly $1 million on the 2006 governor’s race, mobilized more than 1,000 volunteers, and 70 percent of its members voted for the union’s endorsed candidate.

Council 5 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is one strong united voice for 43,000 public and non-profit workers who provide the vital services that sustain our quality of life in Minnesota. The union includes 20,000 state employees.

While the screening was closed Saturday, the union held a forum with the DFL candidates earlier this month that was open to the public.

Here are some snippets from that debate, provided by the union:



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