Party activists elected Ken Martin, a longtime Democratic operative, to lead a DFL Party battered by 2010 and hopeful about 2012.

Martin, who ran unopposed, has long been a DFL name to watch. In the last election, he led independent groups that funneled millions of dollars to Democratic causes. He ran Mike Hatch's losing 2006 campaign for governor and Gov. Mark Dayton's winning 2010 recount.

He said he would bring that statewide campaign mindset, which he said had been lacking, to the party spot.

"We have to do a better job of appealing to voters in the suburbs and exurbs. If we just keep trying to talk to Democrats in the Twin Cities or Democrats on the Range, we are going to lose races," Martin said.

When he spoke to DFLers assembled in a western Minnesota high school Saturday, Martin said he knew the problem intimately.

"We have to find ways to connect to people like my brother....Republicans have convinced him to vote his fears, rather than his hopes," Martin said.

Martin may also shake up the endorsement process -- last year, DFL endorsed candidate for governor Margaret Anderson Kelliher lost to Dayton in a primary.

"There has to be value to the endorsement," Martin said. "You have to create a disincentive for candidate to run against the endorsement....We need to be very strategic in getting candidates to understand: if you run against the endorsement there is going to be a price to pay."

That price, he said, would be running against a unified party with resources to spend on the endorsed candidate.

Martin said that he would hope with him in charge some of the DFL money that flowed through outside groups would go to the party. He said he had encouragement to run from Alida Messinger, Dayton's ex-wife and a major backer of the outside groups Martin ran in 2010, but had not yet asked her to move her contributions to the party.

Martin has little time to figure it all out. In 2012, he will fight to re-elect President Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, work to win the Minnesota House and Senate. Along the way, he will make more than a few enemies -- but Saturday, even GOP Party chair was friendly.

"Welcome to the club," Republican chair Tony Sutton tweeted to Martin Saturday.