As delegates' first ballots were being counted, Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin took to the stage at the convention imploring the crowd not to leave without endorsing a candidate for mayor of Minnepaolis.
"There were 10,000-plus peope who came out to the precinct caucuses in Minneapolis - thousands of people who came out to the ward conventions and 1,700 delegates who sit here today, spending their time and energy listening to candidates, debating the issues, persuading their neighbors, talking to their friends about the issues that we care about," said Martin. "It would be a shame if we left here with no endorsement."
Six candidates are vying for the party's endorsement today, though some insiders expect there will be none.
"The value of our party not just here in Minneapolis but throughout the state of Minnesota rests with strong endorsements, strong endorsements that carry the full weight of our party," Martin said.
Three of the top candidates vying for the DFL endorsement Saturday pledged to end their campaigns if they don't get the party nod.
Among them was City Council Member Betsy Hodges, whose stance on abiding by the endorsement was unclear before the convention. Council Member Gary Schiff and Former Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Andrew had already pledged to abide.
That means the race could narrow significantly if an endorsement results from Saturday's convention. The other candidates, Don Samuels, Jim Thomas and Jackie Cherryhomes, said they would not abide by the endorsement, however.
Andrew has the most momentum heading into the first ballot, according to several insiders at the convention Saturday. But there is expected to be a push from other candidates to block any endorsement.
The question Saturday was whether the candidates would "end" their campaigns. During ward conventions, candidates were asked whether they would "suspend" their campaigns. One of those candidates, council member Meg Tuthill, said she would, but later questioned the meaning of the word "suspend."
By Maya Rao and Eric Roper
In describing her mayoral campaign as a choice between returning to a troubled past or moving toward a brighter future, Council Member Betsy Hodges took a surprising dig at today’s DFL convention at rival Jackie Cherryhomes, who was City Council president in the 1990s.
“Will we go back to the 90s, when elected officials thought our city had so little to offer that people and businesses would only come here with a subsidy?” Hodges asked. “No, we will not. Because I have to tell you, the first time I ever stepped foot in City Hall was 1998, 1999, somewhere in there. I was there with Progressive Minnesota to protest the big public development deal that became Block E. It was infuriating. Why were we acting like Minneapolis had to beg? Why were we acting like big corporate subsidies would save our city?”
Cherryhomes, who will speak shortly at the convention, had advanced the redevelopment of Block E.
Hodges continued: “Block E did not save us. Business owners who has been here for generations and weathered the storm saved us. Latino and East African immigrants investing on Lake Street saved us. Electing city leaders who got our financial house in order saved us. And yes, leaving the false choices of 90s behind and truly entering the 21st Century saved us.”
UPDATE: Cherryhomes and former mayor Sharon Sayles Belton both appeared to respond to Hodges' comments during their address to delegates.
"I want to tell you with no embarrassment whatsoever that the investments of the past have laid the foundation for our future," Sayles Belton said.
Cherryhomes noted that during her tenure, they created the neighborhood revitalization program, the police civilian review authority and built a “vibrant, thriving downtown.”
“Much of what we did was excellent, was very very good. And I am very proud of it,” Cherryhomes said. “Sure we made some mistakes, everyone makes some mistakes. But I have chosen to learn from those mistakes and to do better the next time.”
Hodges also used her struggles with drinking and smoking as a metaphor for how she would make solid decisions when facing a crossroads.
“I have faced one of my own,” she said.
“Twenty-four years ago, I was 19 years old, sitting alone in my room with a bottle of bourbon and a pack of cigarettes, the same as I had been doing for days and for weeks and for months,” Hodges said. “And I had a choice: I could keep repeating my miserable past or I could put the bottle down, face my demons, and head into a brighter future. I’m proud to say that for 24 years I have chosen a bright future every day.”
The chair of the state DFL said Saturday that he is pushing for a mayoral endorsement at Saturday’s convention in Minneapolis.
“It really weakens our party if we don’t have an endorsement in this mayoral race,” said DFL chair Ken Martin outside the auditorium at the Minneapolis Convention Center. “So I’m very hopeful that by the end of the day we’ll have an endorsed candidate for mayor.”
Political insiders had speculated that the party may not endorse due to the number of high-profile candidates. Martin said he is “discouraged” by news he has heard that some campaigns are trying to block an endorsement.
“Candidates that have struck deals with other candidates that if they drop out that they’re going to throw their support behind a certain candidate to block an endorsement,” Martin elaborated.
Martin said since it appears that at least five DFLers may be heading into the November election, “it’s even much more important in that scenario that the DFL party put its stamp of approval – its endorsement – behind a particular candidate.”
UPDATE (11:40): DFL chair wants mayoral endorsement
UPDATE (12:23): Mayoral candidate Hodges takes dig at rival
UPDATE (2:07): Three candidates promise to abide by DFL endorsement
Will the DFL endorse a candidate for mayor of Minneapolis?
That question will be answered this afternoon as party loyalists gather at the Minneapolis Convention Center for the party's city convention. Six candidates are pursuing the DFL endorsement -- five of them are current or former politicians -- and many believe the convention will adjourn Saturday without making a selection.
As of about 10 a.m. Saturday, about 919 delegates had signed into the convention.
The first votes on mayoral candidates began just before 2 p.m. A candidate must win 60 percent of the vote to snag the party endorsement. Only after five ballots can the convention adjourn without endorsement.
It was at this convention 12 years ago that then-activist R.T. Rybak successfuly blocked the endorsement of mayor Sharon Sayles Belton, illustrating the strength of his grassroots campaign. Sayles Belton was among the attendees on Saturday.
The candidates seeking endorsement are Mark Andrew, Gary Schiff, Betsy Hodges, Jackie Cherryhomes, Don Samuels and Jim Thomas.
The rules could make an endorsement more likely. It would drop candidates with less than 10 percent support after the first ballot, 20 percent after the second ballot and 30 percent after the third ballot. The fourth ballot would feature only two candidates.
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