The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Candidates vie for DFL endorsement for 64A seat

By Ari Ofsevit

The general election may still be seven months away, but the House representative for Macalester’s district, 64A, may be effectively selected this weekend, at the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) nominating convention at Central High School in Saint Paul.

Minnesota’s DFL caucuses occurred last month and tomorrow delegates will endorse one of six candidates.

And for the first time in a decade, the race in House District 64A will be contested.

When Minnesota State House minority leader Matt Entenza ’83 anounced that he was stepping down after serving as 64A’s reprsenative for 12 years, half a dozen Democrats in the district began campaigning for the DFL nomination.

Whoever is backed by the DFL is likely to win the seat, in a district that supported Kerry and Entenza by a three to one margin in the 2004 election.

Also running are Republican Kristin Beach and Green Party candidate Jesse Mortenson ’05. Many expect Mortenson to outpoll Beach in the historically liberal district.

The DFL, which currently is in the minority by a 68-66 margin in the house, is optimistic about retaking control with the national political tide turning against Republicans.

The races for Governor and Secretary of State are up for grabs as well, and early polls show Entenza already leading the race for Attorney General.

Of the six candidates vying for the seat, many say that three are frontrunners: Ian Keith, a third-grade teacher and teachers’ union organizer; Erin Murphy, a nurse and union organizer; and Don Arnosti, an environmental lobbyist.

The three other candidates are Sara Dady, Donna Swanson, and Jim White.

In this liberal, urban district, the candidates’ views are similar-all are pro choice, oppose the gay marriage amendment, support expanding funding for education, healthcare, transit and environmental issues, and oppose the Iraq war.

The differences, according to Howell, may come down to personality, and strengths of various issues.

All candidates have agreed to abide by the nominating convention-those not awarded the DFL endorsement said they will drop out so there is no contested primary in September.

Arnosti, one of the hopefuls, said he “wants to bring progressive politics back into reality in Minnesota.” Like most of the other candidates, he has touted his liberal positions on issues like education, transportation and healthcare.

What he said he hopes sets him apart from the other candidates is his long history as an environmental advocate, and he touts his endorsement from the Sierra Club.

Delegate Annika Schilke ’06 was most impressed by Erin Murphy and intends to support her. “Healthcare is important to me and she is obviously the standout in that field,” Schilke said. “I think that electing more women to office is important, and she is the standout woman.”

Adelaide Pagano ’09, MacDems’ Secretary and the Ward 3 Precinct 7 chair, expressed concerns over Murphy. “I think that Erin doesn’t seem as assertive [as the others],” she said. “It’s going to hurt her [at the convention]; she seems a little too shy.”

Howell also said that either Keith or Murphy would be good from a college and MacDems perspective and that “they have done a good job reaching out to the [Macalester] community.”

In fact, Howell is excited about having a rank-and-file representative after years of Entenza’s party leadership. “It’s good to have someone in that office who listens to us,” Howell said. “Matt [Entenza] has been a good resource,” but “he’s got bigger fish to fry” as minority leader and a candidate for statewide office.

Schilke said that she “would not be poorly represented by any of the candidates.”

Howell agreed, saying that any of the DFL candidates would be good and that all are concerned about the college, a politically active part of their constituency.

As one of only a few hundred delegates choosing the DFL candidate, Schilke said that she has received lots of candidate communique. In the past month she has talked with three of the candidates, received many e-mails, attended a party at Murphy’s house, and received “tons and tons and tons of mail,” including a seven-fold mailing from Arnosti and no fewer than five seperate letters from Swanson.

While the endorsement will most likely determine the DFL candidate, it is possible that one of the losers could continue a campaign through the summer. “The primary is the election,” Patrick McGarrity ’06, noting that the DFL candidate is likely to win in November.

“It would be tempting for one of the candidates to “write [the endorsement convention] off as an undemocratic process and say `lets have a real election.'” McGarrity is a delegate and said he has yet to decide between Murphy and Keith.

On Saturday at Central High, several hundred delegates from across Senate District 64 (each of 67 senate districts in Minnesota is divided equally into two House seats) will gather for several hours to give the DFL endorsement to local candidates, as well as nominate delegates for the statewide convention in June.

The house convention will begin around noon, and delegates will vote for each of six candidates. Those who receive a small percentage of the vote will drop out, and the delegates will vote again, repeating this process until one candidate receives a majority of the vote.

Howell said that while most delegates have decided on their first choice, what will happen once candidates drop out will decide which candidate is elected. While Keith is, according to Howell, a slight frontrunner, factions from other candidates could push either Murphy or Arnosti over the top.

As the only woman among the top three candidates, Murphy could draw support from delegates for the two women of the bottom three. DFL rules dictate a 50-50 representation between male and female delegates for each precinct.

Similarly, Arnosti could draw on his strong environmental background and grab a sizable chunk of the vote in what has historically been a very environmentally-minded district.

Should Arnosti not gain the nomination, many of his supporters could be drawn to the Mortenson camp, but Howell still doubts that he could overcome the blue-blooded DFL biases in the district.

The general election is set for November 7.

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