Editorial: Endorsement process favors insiders

Advantage, Republicans.

What other conclusion can we draw after the DFL and GOP state conventions? The Republicans now stand firmly behind Rep. Tom Emmer, who needed just three ballots to defeat his only real competitor, Rep. Marty Seifert. Emmer is now the party's undisputed flag-bearer, and the money should soon be pouring into his campaign coffers.

The DFL, meanwhile, remains a three-horse race. House Majority Leader Margaret Anderson Kelliher has the party's endorsement, but with Mark Dayton and Matt Entenza still in the running, the run-up to the primary in August will be long, expensive and potentially divisive for the DFL.

Philosophically, the outcome of these conventions raises an interesting question: Is the nominating process antiquated? Should voters, rather than party activists and legislators, be allowed to determine whose name will appear on the ballot in November?

Think about it. Seifert, true to his word, honored the GOP's wishes and stepped aside. Ditto for Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Rep. Tom Rukavina — the only major DFL contenders who, after their defeat in Duluth, won't press on.


One could certainly argue that Seifert and Rybak were just as "electable" as Emmer and Anderson Kelliher — perhaps even more so. Seifert isn't a centrist, but his views are more moderate than Emmer's. On the DFL side, Rybak carried with him none of the baggage that comes with being the House Majority Leader, and there's no doubt that Twin Cities voters would have made him a force to be reckoned with in November.

Yet these contenders are out of the race, and the vast majority of Minnesotans had nothing to do with the winnowing process.

That's where events on the DFL side are worth special scrutiny. With Democratic legislators acting as convention "super delegates" — free agents who aren't bound to any candidate — someone in Anderson Kelliher's position has an obvious advantage. She was the insider, with a bloc of potential voters who knew her personally.

You can't criticize Anderson Kelliher for these connections, but we can't help but wonder how the nominating process would have played out without the legislators' votes. This advantage almost certainly factored into the decision by Entenza and Dayton to bypass the nominating process. As long as party insiders continue to wield significant power in the nominating process, then outsiders will continue to ignore it — especially those with deep pockets. Entenza and Dayton are expected to spend millions from their personal fortunes to fund their campaigns.

It's too early to venture a guess about how this will all play out. But if you want further evidence that the nominating process is flawed, consider this: Not since 1986 has a DFL-endorsed gubernatorial candidate won in Minnesota, a state that has voted for the Democrat presidential candidate in the last nine consecutive general elections. That was Rudy Perpich, who won as an incumbent in 1986.

He'd been elected in 1982 — without the party's endorsement.

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