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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published November 14 2010

Minnesota Political Notebook: Minnesota’s chances to host political convention don’t look good

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.

Longtime 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.

Few say the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul helped Minnesota Republicans, but it certainly didn’t hurt the state’s economy.

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.

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 nonpartisan 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.

Republicans and Democrats also are gearing up to monitor the process.

The coalition plans to use more than 150 volunteers to observe the recount.

Democrat Dayton leads Republican Emmer by about 8,700 votes out of 2.1 million cast.

Counties have done their own limited examination of returns, but it appears that a statewide recount of every ballot will be required. The State Canvassing Board officially will determine that on Nov. 23.

Fewer women

The number of women Minnesota legislators is dropping from 70 to 64 in January, pending some potential recounts.

The House will have 43 women, the same as now, and the Senate 21, down from 27. At the same time, women are making history, including the first female Senate majority leader and president.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.