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GOP Senate race likely goes to primary election

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Chris Dahlberg addresses the Republican state convention Friday in Rochester. (DON DAVIS/FORUM NEWS SERVICE)


Forum News Service

ROCHESTER — Minnesota Republicans were looking ahead to Aug. 12 even before they began casting ballots Friday night to endorse a U.S. Senate candidate.

Two of the Senate candidates already had said they would run in the summer primary election, regardless of the state GOP convention endorsement vote.

Balloting began early Friday evening at Rochester’s Mayo Civic Center, and early vote results indicated delegates could be in for a long night.

With 60 percent needed to win endorsement, St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg surprised many by taking the third-ballot lead with 41 percent of the votes in Republicans’ efforts to defeat Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken. Twin Cities businessman Mike McFadden followed with 29 percent, and state Sen. Julianne Ortman was third at 16 percent.

However, candidate and Navy officer Phillip Parrish, who had 11 percent of the vote, asked to have his name removed from the fourth ballot and announced he would support Ortman. If all of his supporters went to the state senator, it would tighten figures into a three-way race.

Dahlberg said he was somewhat surprised in his early lead because he was the last major candidate to enter the race.

“A lot of people, we already knew, were wavering,” Dahlberg said.

During his presentation to the convention, Dahlberg said that other candidates in the race “are changing their positions.”

The former military man said: “You will not see me waver on the Second Amendment” to protect gun ownership.

He said Republicans need to help pave the way for copper and nickel mining in his northeastern Minnesota area.

Dahlberg said he is electable, beating an entrenched Democratic incumbent in his 2008 run for county commissioner in heavily Democratic St. Louis County.

“I am the only one tested in battle,” he said. “I have won three times in northeast Minnesota.”

McFadden and state Rep. Jim Abeler of Anoka said before the vote that while they wanted the convention’s endorsement, they would run in the primary even if delegates picked someone else. Others said they would abide by the convention’s wishes.

The only way that the race would not end up in the primary election would be if McFadden would win the endorsement and Abeler changed his mind and closed his campaign.

McFadden was the biggest question mark since he was making his first run at public office.

Dave Van Loh, a Cottonwood County farmer, stood in the back of the convention hall as former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman spoke, saying that if big-city boy Coleman could learn rural issues, so could McFadden.

Van Loh said McFadden “has a broad knowledge” of many issues and can learn to fill in the blanks as he goes on.

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.