All but declared the next governor of Minnesota, DFLer Mark Dayton on Sunday promised a gathering of more than 1,500 Minnesotans of faith to strive to make the state a place of equal opportunity for all.

"That's my commitment," Dayton said at the Minneapolis Convention Center to members and representatives of about 100 churches and religious organizations from around the state. "I share that [vision] with you. Now let's go do it."

Dayton's comment, which drew a standing ovation, came at an event that was part religious revival gathering and part political and economic forum.

Sponsored by ISAIAH, a Twin Cities religious coalition, the "10,000 Voices for One Minnesota" project was intended to bring the group's concerns about jobs and education to the ear of the state's next governor.

The problem, of course, is that no one yet knows with absolute certainty who that will be: Dayton, the DFL candidate, or Tom Emmer, his Republican opponent.

Although Dayton received about 8,700 more votes than Emmer, the closeness of the race triggered a recount, which is now drawing to a close. The state Canvassing Board is expected to certify a winner on Dec. 14 after reviewing challenged ballots.

According to ISAIAH, which began planning for the event months ago, both candidates were invited to attend and listen. "Emmer and his transition team ... have not responded to the invitation," ISAIAH said in a news release.

As a result, Dayton and his transition team were the only ones who participated in the event, entitled "Shining the Light: A Faith Gathering For Minnesota's Future."

Sunday's gathering, according to organizers, drew church members from all over the state to the convention center.

"You are in the right place at the right time in the right room," the Rev. Grant Stevensen, the president of ISAIAH, told the crowd. "We are creating today a new coalition, a new decision, a new day."

Jobs and education

Speaker after speaker Sunday decried what they said are economic, educational and racial inequities in the state.

"It's time to close that gap," said the Rev. Billy Russell of Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis. "I want one Minnesota."

ISAIAH has organized and held meetings at homes attended by an estimated 4,000 people in the past three months.

The goal was to come up with a detailed program to present to the next governor.

Ministers did that Sunday with Dayton, who appears destined to be the next governor as Emmer has failed to make up much ground in the ongoing recount.

The group gave Dayton and the crowd a booklet outlining recommendations on transportation, education, health care, commerce, and public safety.

ISAIAH is especially concerned about the economy and education, with the group stressing that racial disparities in both areas must be addressed by the next governor.

"The bottom is falling out for so many of us," said Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter, a participant in the first roundtable discussion of the day, "Opening Opportunity: Public Investments for the Common Good."

Dayton said he shared the group's concerns, but said that as governor he would need help from ISAIAH and others to make the desired changes.

"There needs to be a lot of people from ISAIAH [at the Capitol] to frame that debate," Dayton said. "So let's do it together, all of us, all 10,000 voices."

Heron Marquez • 952-707-9994