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Independence Party gains familiar names

By Lenora Chu

lchu@postbulletin.com

When Independence Party delegates gather in St. Cloud for their state convention Saturday, they will be fielding newly converted candidates with proven records -- including incumbent and former legislators.

Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Penny of the 1st District leads the party's ticket with his candidacy for governor, and this week he tapped Sen. Martha Robertson of Minnetonka, who left the Republican Party, to be his running mate.

The Independence Party also picked up a slate of GOP and DFL converts this week, including Sen. Sheila Kiscaden, a former Republican from Rochester who is seeking re-election to the District 30 seat.

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Eight other politicians, including two legislative hopefuls from Olmsted County -- former Republican Joe Duffy of Rochester and longtime DFLer Jim Daley of Byron -- joined the party Thursday.

Tom Viken, the party's 1st District chairman, said he is "excited" that the Independence movement is "gaining momentum."

"(Saturday) will differ from previous conventions because realistically, we have candidates we know can win," Viken said. "We have a candidate for governor who is committed to build the party, and we have candidates who know how to raise the money and win campaigns."

What will surely change this year is the delegate-selection process; at the last IP nominating convention, simply showing up qualified a person to be a delegate.

This time, delegates will be limited to those chosen at least three days before the start of the convention. The party hopes to protect the convention from possible swamping by Democrats or Republicans trying to squash Penny's candidacy. About 250 delegates are expected to be seated, including at least five southeastern Minnesotans who attended the local IP caucus in March.

Penny is expected to walk away with the party's gubernatorial endorsement Saturday; education commissioner Christine Jax, who had planned to seek the IP gubernatorial nod, announced her withdrawal from the race Thursday.

The party's celebrity name, Gov. Jesse Ventura, will not address the convention due to his hospitalization this week for a blood clot in his lung.

Unlike the other parties, the Independence Party doesn't demand allegiance to all of its planks, asking only that candidates support three of every four "cornerstone" planks.

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Among the items on the party's platform: ban unlimited expenditures by political parties to elect or defeat candidates; let Minnesotans vote on a one-house legislature; and support for paying down the national debt.

This article contains information from the Associated Press.

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