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Republicans open state convention in St. Cloud

ST. CLOUD, Minn. -- Republicans opened their state convention today bickering about rules such as whether people in the River's Edge Convention Center aisles may vote.

The main event comes this afternoon when about 2,000 delegates are to pick a Republican challenger for Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Delegates came to St. Cloud for many reasons.

For Eric Monson, 21, of Wadena, his first state political convention is important because he sees the country's government going downhill.

"To really bring change, you have to be actually involved," Monson said as fellow delegates discussed convention rules.

While he supports Ron Paul, Monson said his first priority is building the party. In some states, supporters of the Paul presidential effort have battled party regulars, but that was not evident in St. Cloud during the early hours.

Sitting next to Monson, Cecil Johnson was ready for changes.

"We have got to kick the old people out," the Vietnam veteran said. "I don't care if they are Republican."

Monson and Johnson represent a large number of GOP delegates: they are attending their first convention.

Justin Krych of Cloquet, however, is a convention veteran. He said that political conventions are important every two years, but especially in a presidential election year like this.

Long lines of slow traffic and packed parking ramps greeted the delegates arriving this morning for their state convention, As delegates tried to navigate St. Cloud streets, state GOP Chairman Pat Shortridge declared that "Republican-on-Republican violence" was about to end with selection of a U.S. Senate candidate to take on Klobuchar.

After praying and saluting the flag, delegates elected state Reps. Kurt Daudt Crown and Sarah Anderson of Plymouth convention chairmen without dissent. Some had predicted a conflict on the issue between traditional Republicans and Paul supporters.

The main job for delegates today is picking among Senate candidates Dan Severson, Kurt Bills and Pete Hegseth. Ballots will be cast beginning this afternoon.

Tonight, presidential candidate Paul is to speak to the convention, and will hold a GOP fundraiser Saturday morning.

The River's Edge Convention Center was packed by the 9:22 a.m. start.

A few minutes earlier, more than 30 Republicans stood in line several blocks from the convention center waiting to pay an automated parking meter $2.25 to park for the day.

Rep. Bud Nornes of Fergus Falls, one of several lawmakers in the line, stood at the back.

"That's OK," he said of his position. "My wife is a delegate, so I have all day."

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

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.