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Published March 27 2010

Energy, optimism highlight first day of Democratic convention

North Dakota Democrats were invigorated with enthusiasm as they kicked off candidate nominations at their state convention Friday in Fargo.

Nominations continue this morning with endorsements for state attorney general, U.S. Senate and U.S. House.

Here are some highlights from Friday:

- A mix of both realism and optimism resonated among Democratic supporters, who acknowledge the difficult political climate they face this election season but aren’t backing down from competitive races.

Senate Minority Leader David O’Connell said he’s heard “gloom and doom” from some party supporters during district conventions earlier this year. But he and other party leaders during the state convention encouraged a “Yes, we can” mentality going into this election year.

- As of 12:30 p.m. Friday, 301 certified delegates were seated at the convention. The number grew as the afternoon went on, and a larger turnout is anticipated for today. About 700 delegates registered to attend the convention.

- In advance of today’s expected protests from tea party supporters outside the convention at the Fargo Civic Center, Democratic-NPL Party spokesman Mark Schneider encouraged delegates to welcome the supporters.

“While they exercise their First Amendment rights out in the street, we’ll be exercising ours,” Schneider said.

He joked that delegates should offer the protesters a cup of coffee. “Not tea, mind you. Coffee,” he joked to a roar of laughter from the delegates.

The tea partiers plan to protest North Dakota’s congressional delegation’s pro-health care reform votes. Inside the convention, Democratic supporters cheered and clapped vigorously when the legislation was mentioned several times Friday.

- Former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp took to the convention stage twice Friday to nominate both Secretary of State candidate Corey Mock and Tax Commissioner candidate Cynthia Kaldor.

After Heitkamp said earlier this month that she wouldn’t seek a U.S. Senate bid, she pledged to be involved with state campaigns this year. She demonstrated just that on Friday, by motivating party supporters with her energized speeches.

Heitkamp has said she’s interested in possibly running for governor again in 2012.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541