Lori Sturdevant, an editorial writer and columnist, has covered state government and politics for more than 30 years.

The winner: party endorsement

Posted by: Lori Sturdevant Updated: August 15, 2012 - 4:53 PM

Count Minnesota's political party organizations and their endorsement system among the big winners in Tuesday's primary. When the few -- very few -- votes were all counted, party officials could crow that no endorsed candidate for Congress or the Legislature was among the losers.

"It shows how relevant we are," said DFL spokeswoman Kate Monson.

Maybe so -- although that claim is a little shaky from the party whose last two governors arrived in office after successfully challenging an endorsed candidate in the primary. The DFL has not landed an endorsee in a vacant governor's chair since 1970. 

The relevance claim rings truer from the GOP, where devotion to the insider-dominated caucus-to-convention process of candidate selection tends to run deeper and wider than in the DFL. The state Republican Party coffers may be depleted. But it worked hard through low-cost channels to deliver for its endorsees.

Their efforts evidently were formidable enough to prompt state Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, to stress with Star Tribune screeners a few weeks back that she was not challenging the party-endorsed candidate. Her District 47 GOP convention deadlocked, leaving Ortman and her challenger, Bruce Schwichtenberg, both free to run in the primary without offending party norms.  

Ortman won her primary, but two other sitting GOP legislators did not. Both Rep. Connie Doepke of Orono, trying to move to the Senate, and Rep. Steve Smith of Mound were defeated Tuesday. A key difference: their opponents had been winners at their respective endorsing conventions. 

In both parties, the endorsement system had the benefit of a great ally Tuesday -- low turnout. They showed that they know how to sway a 9-percent share of the electorate -- and served notice to future endorsement challengers that they'd better know how to get a larger share than that to the polls.  

 

 

 

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