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DFL bans Dayton from convention floor

DULUTH -- Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party officials rejected a request from former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, now a governor candidate, to talk to delegates on their state convention floor.

So Dayton chatted with delegates in the hallways of the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center and talked to reporters, where he said the DFL move "is very petty."

"This party is big enough for everybody," said Dayton, who added that he has donated large amounts of his personal wealth to the party over the years.

DFL Executive Director Andrew O'Leary said that Dayton was offered the same floor access as other candidates, but only if he took part in today's endorsement process. Instead, Dayton has said since he became a candidate that he will take his case to hundreds of thousands of primary election voters instead of the 1,400 delegates at the state convention.

Other candidates worked the floor Friday afternoon, the convention's first day, looking for uncommitted delegates in what is expected to be a close endorsement race today. Dayton, meanwhile, was relegated to mostly deserted hallways outside of the convention itself.

Democratic and Republican officials prefer candidates to be involved in the endorsement process instead of running in the primary election.

A state convention endorsement does not mean that candidate will represent the party in the November election. Candidates may skip the endorsement, like Dayton has, or ignore the convention's decision and move on to the Aug. 10 primary election regardless of how they do in the endorsement.

"We are very respectful of the senator's decision," DFL spokesman Donald McFarland said.

Reminded of Dayton's gifts over the years, McFarland added: "Certainly, the senator is a great friend of the DFL."

That is not how Dayton, who has attended DFL conventions since 1976, saw it on Friday.

"I was astounded that he would be so petty," Dayton said of DFL Chairman Brian Melendez.

The former senator, who also has held several state posts, said he never intended to speak to the convention or even be there today, when delegates are to endorse a candidate. All he wanted, he said, was to talk to delegates on the convention floor Friday.

"I don't know why the DFL Party should be afraid," he said.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.