Rep. Erin Murphy got a major lift Thursday in her bid for governor by winning the backing of Faith in Minnesota, a progressive religious group that expects to send 132 delegates and 44 alternates to the DFL convention in Rochester this weekend.
To receive the party endorsement, a candidate must receive 60 percent of the expected 1,400 delegates, or 840.
Murphy is locked in a tight, three-way race for the DFL endorsement with U.S. Rep. Tim Walz and State Auditor Rebecca Otto, who both finished ahead of Murphy in the February precinct caucuses.
But Murphy has racked up impressive endorsements heading into Saturday’s convention contest. Murphy, who has represented St. Paul in the Legislature since her 2006 election, recently won the support of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees and the SEIU State Council, as well as TakeAction Minnesota, another progressive group.
Faith in Minnesota is the political arm of ISAIAH, an interdenominational religious coalition of more than 100 congregations that pushes for progressive economic and social policies, including anti-poverty measures, affordable housing, public transportation and racial equity.
Faith in Minnesota is a new player in DFL politics but made a strong showing during the spring caucus season when delegates were chosen from around the state to attend the state convention.
“We wanted to explore which candidate would have a co-creative relationship with us around our agenda and values, and which candidate did we believe would do a new kind of politics with us in 2018,” said ISAIAH policy director Lars Negstad, who called the group’s endorsement process rigorous.
Murphy was the decisive top choice in a vote of the 176 delegates and alternates, Negstad said. The Faith in Minnesota delegates will be unified in Rochester, he said.
In a memo to the media, the Murphy campaign previewed the candidate’s final pitch to delegates: “Murphy’s closing argument to DFL delegates will be centered around this moment — our moment — to stand up for our values and fight, recognizing that progress isn’t the result of running to the middle.”
That’s an oblique shot at Walz, who has touted his ability to attract a broader swath of voters, including moderates in his congressional district and other areas of greater Minnesota.
Walz won the support of the state teachers union and the building trades in recent weeks. He held a Thursday news conference to tout the breadth of his support, from Twin Cities legislators to mayors from greater Minnesota.
Walz and his running mate Rep. Peggy Flanagan said they would make it a priority to restore local government aid to cities around the state, though Walz declined to detail how he would pay for it.
Walz touted his ticket’s electability: “We feel confident that the DFL understands [the importance] of uniting Minnesota, bringing a team that has strength in all four corners of the state, a team that has the resources to win and is obviously being noticed by the Pawlenty camp,” he said, referring to former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s frequent attacks on Walz since getting in the race in April.
After finishing second in the February precinct caucuses, Otto has failed to garner much labor support, and her campaign manager recently left the campaign.
But Otto was optimistic in an interview Thursday: “We’re in fantastic shape. We’re neck-and-neck with Walz and way ahead of [Murphy].”
Otto won the endorsement of the DFL progressive caucus, fulfilling a drive to be the party’s liberal alternative.
The party endorsement is just the first step to being the party nominee, which will ultimately be decided by voters participating in the Aug. 14 primary.