The Independence Party of Minnesota, saying it had been spurred to act after a meeting with Republican nominee John McCain, announced Wednesday it will likely endorse a presidential candidate.
Party chair Craig Swaggert said an endorsing convention would be held Oct. 25, and said he suspected the party would endorse one of the major-party candidates. Swaggert, who said the party struggled internally with the decision, said the move was made partially because of the intense interest in the presidential race.
"This is unscripted. This is an opportunity for people to speak out," Dan Justesen, the party's vice chair, said of the convention. Party officials said they expected to draw roughly 300 delegates to the event, which would be held at Eastview High School in Apple Valley and feature representatives for McCain, Barack Obama and other candidates.
"We're going to argue," said Justesen. "We're going to let it flow." Party officials acknowledged the event could also result in no endorsement.
The decision comes as McCain trails Obama in most polls in Minnesota, and both candidates are aggressively chasing independent voters in the state. Party officials said it marked that the first time since 1992 -- when the party's predecessor, the Reform Party, endorsed presidential candidate Ross Perot -- that the party would attempt to endorse a presidential hopeful.
Swaggert said he met with McCain in a small-group setting when the Republican candidate visited Minnesota roughly two months ago. "His visit here ... did help it along for us to become more involved," said Swaggert.
Dean Barkley, the Independence Party candidate for U.S. Senate, said he would not be attending the convention. "I have a difference of opinion of whether that's something they should or shouldn't be doing," he said. "I'll be too busy campaigning."