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Republicans still seeking US Senate candidate

  • Article by: BRIAN BAKST
  • Associated Press
  • May 31, 2014 - 12:10 PM

ROCHESTER, Minn. — In an ever-tightening contest, Republicans struggled Saturday to endorse a candidate in the race to unseat Minnesota Sen. Al Franken.

After an overnight recess and eight ballots overall at the GOP state convention in Rochester, a mere three votes separated St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg and investment banker Mike McFadden, who were dueling for the 60 percent needed for endorsement.

Dahlberg, who emerged as a dark-horse pick the day before, was looking to deny McFadden a smooth path to the November ballot. McFadden plans to run in an August primary no matter what. He scooped up the backing of retiring U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann early in the day.

"While I applaud each candidate who has worked so hard to secure our party's nomination, it is my belief that Mike McFadden is the candidate that can best bring the fight to Senator Franken," Bachmann said in a written statement. She remains popular with the conservatives who make up a large share of the delegate pool.

McFadden took to the stage, his voice hoarse, to proclaim himself the candidate with enough money and contrast to stack up against the incumbent.

"We have forgotten to believe how to win in this state," he told fellow Republicans. "And I'm tired of it. And you're tired of it. And we're tired of it. Together, we, us, will beat Al Franken. We will crush him."

In his own morning remarks, Dahlberg warned delegates not to be swayed by dollar signs.

"The political graveyards have been filled with campaigns where they thought it was all about the money," he said.

There was a chance that the party would remain deadlocked, leaving the GOP without a preferred candidate until an August primary. The same delegates also planned to pick a favorite for Minnesota governor on Saturday, with four candidates in the endorsement hunt.

In the Senate race, state Rep. Jim Abeler and two other candidates — retired naval officer Phillip Parrish and farmer Monte Moreno — slipped from contention Friday night. State Sen. Julianne Ortman, who had been McFadden's most serious competitor coming in, fell below the cutline after the fifth ballot.

Ken Wolf, a delegate from Burnsville, decided in recent weeks to go with McFadden over Ortman. He said he just wants a fall winner, something the party has had trouble finding in recent years in statewide races.

"People have said whether you win or lose you make a statement," Wolf said of those past picks. "I say when you lose, you make no statement at all."

The candidates, delegates and other party leaders swung hard at Franken, the Democrat who squeaked into office after a recount and court case in which he edged Republican Sen. Norm Coleman by 312 votes. They blamed him for the health insurance law requiring people to carry coverage because his election provided a crucial 60th Senate vote. And they said he hasn't stood up to President Barack Obama when it counted.

Coleman begged his party to not let Franken slip by again.

"In 2014, whoever our candidate is chosen to run against Al Franken, I ask that you stand with me and make sure there is no recount and there is no do-over," he said.

Franken was in Duluth for his party's convention on Saturday, where he faces no opposition for the party's endorsement.

© 2014 Star Tribune