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Continued: In primary fights, Minnesota parties fight for relevance

  • Article by: BAIRD HELGESON , Star Tribune
  • Last update: June 16, 2014 - 10:49 AM

Purity vs. electability

Some Republicans say the party’s stamp of approval no longer holds the sway it once did, in part because everyday Republicans often are too busy or turned off by party politics. That increasingly has left political endorsing conventions to ideological die-hards who sometimes select candidates imbued with party purity but lacking broader appeal.

“It is about providing a choice to all Minnesota Republicans,” said GOP gubernatorial candidate Kurt Zellers, a former House speaker pressing ahead to the primary. “I am about having more people involved in the Republican Party, not less.”

Republicans say they are merely replicating a winning, albeit messy strategy used by Democrats, who hold all statewide offices and control the state House and Senate.

“It’s become increasingly difficult for parties to play the role that they have in the past,” said former GOP Party Chair Pat Shortridge, a consultant for Republican gubernatorial candidate and businessman Scott Honour. “It’s my long-held belief that primaries make superior candidates.”

Democratic and Republican party officials hope that resounding primary victories for their endorsed candidates will stem the tide of rebellion — at least for this election cycle.

GOP Party Chairman Keith Downey said he believes the party’s wobbly finances played a role in some candidates’ decision to take on the party’s endorsee. He said party finances have stabilized, and he hopes primary voters will validate the delegates’ choices.

“I’ve been pretty frank,” Downey said. “Show that the endorsement still means something.”

‘Abide by the endorsement’

Minnesota DFLers have been wrestling with the value of endorsements for years. The promise to “abide by the endorsement” that once cleared the field of same-party rivals has been harder to come by.

But Entenza’s run has particularly enraged some DFLers who fear the contest will ignite divisions within the party and be a drag on Dayton and Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken, who is facing a tough ­re-election fight.

“Democratic activists are beyond ticked,” said Nancy Larson, a longtime DFLer and former auditor candidate. “It makes no political sense. It makes him into a pariah.”

Entenza said he is not put off by the bluster from the DFL’s Martin and other critics. “Democrats have gotten very good at coming together after the primary,” Entenza said. Martin “will be the first one to be on my side when I win. He won’t say it, but he will.”

Baird Helgeson • 651-925-5044

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