Sunday, February 24, 2008

Johnson wins Hennepin County endorsement, Koblick drops out

Jeff Johnson (photo: North Star Liberty
Note: This was going to be my Hennepin County Republican Convention liveblog, but there was no wireless network at the convention venue, so I am posting this ex post facto.

8:05 a.m. - Arrived at the Medina Entertrainment Center, there is a cashier's table to collect the registration fee, and a separate registration area. The lobby area is packed, there are easily 1000 people trying to get in for a scheduled 9:00 am start. Registration is paper-based, the volunteers are laboring mightily, but the lines are long and some are having trouble getting registered. One woman said she had to stand in line three times to get credentialed.

8:50 a.m. - There is no way that we will begin on time. Jeff Johnson has coffee and doughnuts waiting for delegates, and they were the really good, decadent kind, but I am doing so much meeting and greeting that the table is empty by the time I circle back. Johnson's continental breakfast table, delegate registration, and various candidate tables are all crammed into a small area, along with hundreds of delegates and alternates.

There is some hardball going on between the campaigns of Warren Limmer and Jeff Johnson, who are vying for the endorsement for Hennepin County Commissioner in District 7. Limmer is using campaign signs from his earlier campaign for Attorney General, a no-no. Johnson has distributed flyers with positive comments about him from conservative blogs, including North Star Liberty, Minnesota Democrats Exposed, Fraters Libertas, dreckless, and Residual Forces. Flyers tout each candidate's conservative credentials. Several copies of a poster from Limmer chronicle some back-and-forth between the candidates on the fate of Limmer's Senate seat in a special election, if he were to win.

Convention floor (photo: North Star Liberty)

Some of the buzz while we are waiting for things to start is around the state party's general anemic response to the DFL on the technology front. Several activists have been telling me for years that the party's statewide voter data base is chronically outdated, and various attempts to modernize have been met with resistance by the state party and some BPOUs. Activists are saying that it's going to be frustrating to volunteers to be flying blind (again) relative to the DFL, which is said to be light years ahead of the Republicans in voter ID and political micromarketing. Example: door-knockers for state Sen. Terri Bonoff, who in 2006 collected vital data from voters on PDAs. Once uploaded to the mothership, this data enables subsequent contacts — whether it is a direct mail piece, e-mail, or phone call — to be targeted to a voter who is not only leaning toward the candidate, but is also targeted to their pet campaign issue, all designed to pay off in a vote.

Judging by the convention registration process, somebody dropped the ball on getting delegate info organized after the overwhelmingly attended precinct caucuses on Super Tuesday, February 5. The registration volunteers were working off hardcopy printouts. There are no preprinted nametags, no laptops on a wireless LAN to help ID delegates or direct them to their BPOU and precinct, just stacks of paper.

Overheard from one volunteer later after the rush is over: "Every time I do registration, I remember how much I hate doing registration."

I'm sure that some first-time delegates are unimpressed, and this could have a negative effect later on when we call on these people to do a lit-drop, door knock a neighborhood, or take a shift at the phone bank.

Others are incredulous that the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce endorsed the tax increase bill that was vetoed by the governor last week. One furious business owner told me that the Republicans should not stop the DFL-led veto override, to let the Chamber feel their buyer's remorse (it could still happen).

9:52 a.m. - The convention is finally called to order, almost an hour late. Some of the tables are not clearly marked, so some of the delegates are unsure of where they should be seated. Yes, there is a map, but you have to cross-reference your BPOU and precinct from an Excel spreadsheet to a four-digit table number, then find the table number on the map. Some of the delegates are still in line to get credentialed.

After the Pledge of Allegiance, Pastor Jim McLeish gives the invocation. Tom Tipton sings a powerful Gospel-inspired rendition of the National Anthem, to loud applause.

One of the first orders of business is credentials, that is, reconciling the number of delegates and alternates with the number of each who actually showed up. We cannot vote to endorse until the credentials report is final.

Linda Koblick (photo: North Star Liberty
10:20 am - Linda Koblick formally announces that she will not run for reelection for Hennepin County Commissioner in District 6, citing personal reasons. Koblick gave a heartfelt and eloquent farewell address, thanking her family and the grassroots, and emphasizing the need for suburban representation on the county board. She thanked District 7 delegates for the honor of representing them. Koblick's district voted to not endorse today, and to call another endorsing convention in a month.

Always a forceful and articulate advocate for suburban interests, Koblick (with Commissioners Penny Steele and Gail Dorfman) endured by all accounts a horrific fight against the public subsidy for the billionaire owners of a team of millionaire baseball players without the referendum required by law. Koblick will be sorely missed by Hennepin County conservatives, but she has surely earned an early retirement from her service.

10:43 am - Someone is giving a real stemwinder in support of John McCain for President, and he is not connecting with the audience or doing Sen. McCain much justice in his speech.

11:05 am - They are still going through the credentials process. During this time, for each precinct, the number of alternates and delegates is announced, along with the number seated. In past years, each precinct would usually seat fewer delegates than their allotment. This year, most precincts seemed to be full, with some announced as "over," something I have rarely if ever heard in five years of going to these conventions.

11:08 am - Erik Paulsen gives a lively speech.

11:14 am - Robert Morgan from the Ron Paul campaign speaks, to some enthusiastic but not crazy applause and cheers. He was certainly better than the McCain speaker. Morgan is a recent transplant from California, eager to learn about caucuses (California is a primary state), and happy to be here despite the winter weather.

11:17 - We are still waiting for the credentials report.

11:34 - There are over 1000 delegates and alternates registered. The credentials report is still not final. People are getting restless. I am getting dehydrated and hungry for lunch. The convention suspends the rules to allow the candidates to speak before the credentials report is final. Without a suspension of the rules, this would be out of order.

Randy Johnson is endorsed for Hennepin County Commissioner District 6.

Jeff Johnson endorsement speeches (photo: North Star Liberty
11:50 - Jeff Johnson speaks. He emphasizes accomplishing conservative reforms as commissioner, referred to his record in the Minnesota House, pledged to out-campaign his eventual opponent in the general election.

Credentials report is finally final. Of the 681 delegates seated in District 7, 409 (60 percent) will be needed to endorse.

11:55 am - Warren Limmer is up. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann endorses Limmer via recorded audio (Bachmann and Limmer were colleagues in the Minnesota Senate Republican caucus). Outgoing District 7 Hennepin County Commissioner Penny Steele steps to the microphone. She receives enthusiastic appaluse, and delivers an emotional farewell, before a strong seconding endorsement. She says that Limmer will be a strong campaigner. She emotionally announced that her husband's job was recently outsourced, and that she considered running for re-election, but decided instead that should Limmer win, she will run for his state Senate seat.

Limmer himself gives an impassioned speech, saying that he would not form coalitions, he is looking to fight the liberals on the county board.

12:08 pm - The convention votes to endorse in District 7. Ballots are being passed out.

12:15 pm - The first ballot is underway.

12:52 pm - Still no word from the tellers on the first ballot.

First ballot: Johnson 374 (54%), Limmer 310 (46%). 60% needed to win.

Johnson and Limmer address the delegates. Some of the veterans in the "power alley" of the SD 43 delegate area are recalling the 2002 Pawlenty-Sullivan endorsement battle, which went overnight, umpteen ballots until about 3 am.

1:55 pm - The chair announced "no endorsement," meaning a third ballot, then asked everyone to stand by for a recount, meaning maybe there is an endorsement after all.

2:13 pm - Recount:

Second ballot: Johnson 377, 58.6%
Limmer 261.5, 40.6%

A total of 388 needed to endorse. The number of votes needed to endorse decreases along with the number of ballots cast as delegates gradually filter out of the convention to resume their real lives. Many, including me, thought we would be out of here by noon.

The two candidates address the delegates. Limmer emphasizes his electability, Johnson emphasizes his core principles. Limmer and Johnson leave the stage together, smiling.

2:30 pm - Ron Carey, chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota, addresses the convention. Interestingly, Carey announces that computerized voter ID will be a major effort this year by the party. He announced, to much applause, that he spoke against the endorsement of one of the Republicans who voted with the DFL to pass the transit tax bill, and he or she was denied endorsement. He asked for a show of hands from first-time caucus attendees, and it looked like almost half of the convention raised their hands.

2:40 pm - I leave to go vacuum the house, since I am in District 2, which is not up for reelection. Other male delegates report their wives calling regarding their honey-do lists: bathroom remodeling, a new refrigerator that needs to be moved to the basement.

On the way home, I hear from Mitch Berg on the Northern Alliance Radio Network that Jeff Johnson has won the endorsement on the third ballot, with 61% of the vote.

Convention floor (photo: North Star Liberty
A post script: SD 43 had a reunion of sorts of what I called the Gaither A-Team, the group of campaign operators that helped to get David Gaither elected as the conservative senator from the "new" (after redistricting) SD 43 in 2002. It was great telling some of the old war stories and getting reacquainted. It remains to be seen whether we can get our groove back in 2008. All we need is a candidate for House District 43B. Stay tuned for the SD 43 BPOU convention on Saturday, March 8 at Wayzata East Middle School.


Minnesota Democrats Exposed said...

I'm really curious about the flyer from Johnson's campaign with the comments from MDE. Do you have a copy of the flyer?

Scholar said...

Yes I do.

Pangaea said...

I was there, the entire 7+ hrs. There were more people than most expected (At least that what I WAS TOLD... umm).
Since this was my first time in attendance, really didn't know what to expect. GREAT to see the process at work. What was up with the non grads from Steele to Johnson...Limmer was classy in calling for a full endorsement from the crowd for Johnson after Johnson received the 60+ %.

Liked Rob's speech for Ron Paul.. Looks like he getting some good visibilty..lot of party folks were coming up to him afterwards ---SD 43B candidate????

Thanks for the great blog.