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

Conventions deserve separate weekends

Posted by: Lori Sturdevant Updated: June 1, 2014 - 2:20 PM

State political party conventions aren't conducted for the benefit of the people in their host arenas. They attempt to convey messages and meaning to the broader electorate -- even if most of those broader electors tune in only briefly.

Belief in that mission inspires journalists to report on these biennial confabs. It's why I felt duty-bound this weekend to spend one day with the Republicans in Rochester and another with the DFLers in Duluth. After more than 35 years of covering state party conventions, I could not imagine skipping either event.

But I had to wonder this year whether the parties share my belief in the purpose of conventions. If they do, why did they schedule their big shows for the same weekend, when each would detract from Minnesotans' focus on the other?

Mine might be the lament of a road-weary journalist. But every contributor of time and treasure to this weekend's not-inexpensive meetings has grounds for complaint, too. They aren't getting their money's worth when Party X's convention must share the news spotlight with Party Y's down the road.

The party officials I consulted blame the primary date shift from September to August four years ago for this weekend's convention collision. Fewer opportune weekends are available now, they said.

But that's not the whole story. There's also reluctance to meet after the filing period, which decides whose names are on the primary ballot. Conventions aim to whittle down that list. This year, the filing period closes on June 3.

Further, legislators don't like meeting while the Legislature is in session and its contentious issues are unresolved. Avoiding Easter, Passover, Mother's Day, Memorial Day and the Fishing Opener also comes into play. So, I fear, does a paucity of good will between the parties.

Holidays won't go away. But all the other excuses used to justify this year's same-weekend schedule deserve reexamination. Political parties are already deemed too insular and inscrutable. Conducting conventions simultaneously only makes that reputation worse. 

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