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Mpls. might have lost Dem convention ground; Urdahl reminds GOP of control

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's bid for a second straight national political convention may have taken a hit in this month's Republican-dominated elections.

The Charlotte (North Carolina) Observer's Jim Morrill writes: "The four states that Democrats are considering to host their 2012 national convention showed off their hospitality ... to Republicans."

That could mean Democrats who will pick the next convention site may opt for Ohio because it is the biggest catch among the states looking to host the convention: North Carolina, Minnesota, Missouri and Ohio.

Long-time Minnesota political science professor Steven Smith, now at Washington University in St. Louis, told Morrill that the vote may have helped Cleveland's bid for the convention over Charlotte, St. Louis and Minneapolis

"Ohio went so strongly Republican at every level that because of the size of Ohio, it's going to be given priority in ... siting decisions," Smith said. "You don't want to give up on a state like Ohio."

On the other hand, some in Minnesota think that since the state appears headed to a divided government (all statewide elected officials Democrat and the Legislature Republican) a convention here would offer a boost to Democrats.

Late news

House speaker-designate Kurt Zellers said his father is on a business trip in Cairo, Egypt, and did not learn that his son's Republican Party had won control of the Minnesota House until the Saturday after the election.

The next speaker himself appeared somewhat surprised that the GOP won control like it did. Before the election, Zellers thought Republicans could pick up 15 to 22 seats. They picked up 25.

Now, the man who dealt blackjack to raise college tuition money (he once paid his University of North Dakota tuition in $100 bills he earned as a dealer) is trying to figure out how to deal with the shuffled deck of a Legislature.

Not the first

Historian and state Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, called in a reminder that Republicans actually have controlled the Minnesota Legislature in the past, as they will come January.

From statehood until 1913, legislative candidates ran on partisan party ballots and Republicans sometimes had control. But the Legislature passed a bill that made legislative races nonpartisan.

"It happened by mistake," Urdahl said, when lawmakers passed a bill to make judicial elections nonpartisan they accidentally made their own jobs that way, too.

Lawmakers took until 1972 to change the system back to partisan contests. During the nonpartisan era, generally Democrats caucused under the "liberal" label and Republicans called themselves "conservatives."

A similar process occurs in Nebraska. Lawmakers there, in the country's only one-chamber Legislature, are not elected under party banners. And even though they say everyone knows colleagues' political leanings, they claim that being nonpartisan allows them to pick better committee chairmen and other leaders because they avoid political party pressure.

U applicants sought

The University of Minnesota Regent Candidate Advisory Council is going back to the drawing board seeking candidates to run the university.

A Nov. 8 regent application deadline has been extended to Nov. 29. Unpaid, regents serve six-year terms.

The dozen regents form the university's board of directors.

Open next year are one statewide seat and those representing the 2nd, 3rd and 8th congressional districts. Information about applying is available at or by calling 651-296-9002.

Recount monitor

A group that calls itself nonpartisan promises to watch a governor's race recount to provide an objective evaluation.

"Minnesota's election system is among the best in the nation, but a close election like this one makes it even more important that the system is as transparent and as error-free as possible," said Laura Fredrick Wang of the Minnesota League of Women Voters.

"The presence of non-partisan observers moves us closer to this goal. While the campaigns will be making sure that every vote for their candidate is counted, we will be ensuring that the votes are counted and tallied accurately and fairly. "

Besides the league, Common Cause and Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota will be involved if, as expected, the Mark Dayton-Tom Emmer election contest moves to a recount. The groups did the same during the 2008 U.S. Senate recount.

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.