An otherwise unremarkable DFL endorsing convention Saturday lit up social media when it was closed to the media, in apparent violation of the party's rules.
Saturday morning St. Cloud Times reporter Mark Sommerhauser tweeted that he was barred from the convention, where local DFLers endorsed a candidate to run in the St. Cloud area special election for a vacant state House seat. The candidate, Joanne Dorsher, was running unopposed for the DFL nod.
The St. Cloud Times reported that Dorsher's campaign manager Doug Clark, who is married to former congressional candidate Tarryl Clark, told him that media was not permitted in the convention because the campaign feared Republican trackers would attend. Trackers, young partisan activists who follow opposition candidates around with video cameras, have long been a routine part of politics.
Clark was authorized to close the convention to the press by the House district's DFL chair, according to the Times.
DFL party rules say that endorsing conventions are open to the public and the press.
The closure prompted an outcry on Twitter from Republicans, Democrats and the press.
Dorsher distanced herself from the closure of the convention.
"Unfortunately, a decision was made without my knowledge to close today's convention to the press. I have asked my campaign to post a video of the convention online for anyone interested to see," she said in a statement posted to Facebook.
Minnesota DFL Party chair Ken Martin said the move to close the convention was not pursuant to the party's rules and did not meet with the party's approval. He said, however, that it appeared to be an "inadvertent mistake" and would not invalidate Dorsher's endorsement.
Martin also said that DFL trackers were barred from the recent Republican endorsing conventions for the two upcoming legislative special elections.
Via Twitter, House Majority Leader Erin Murphy said that she spent the morning at a DFL convention in North Mankato, which endorsed a candidate for the special legislative election in that area. That convention was open to the press, she tweeted, "as it should be."
Neither Minnesota DFL Party chair Ken Martin nor House Majority Leader Erin Murphy responded to Star Tribune requests for comment on Saturday morning.
Updated with comment from Dorsher, Martin and Murphy.