Weekend political storm, clarity to follow

Minnesota politicsThis weekend, delegates for Minnesota’s Democratic Farmer-Labor party meet in Duluth while Republicans gather in Rochester for their respective state conventions. The Uptake has live coverage of both events, which I recommend if you enjoy momentary political intrigue and long stretches of suffering.

Most of the drama will be on the Republican side, where delegates will be endorsing challengers in the U.S. Senate and Governor’s race. There is still likely to be a competetive primary election, particularly in the Senate race, but the GOP endorsement will create a distinct front-runner in both of these crowded fields.

On the DFL side, incumbents Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken are poised for easy re-endorsements and neither face significant primary challengers. That will make the DFL convention much more boring than usual, with one small exception: the likelihood of a dust-up over the northern Minnesota mining issue.

I predicted, incorrectly, that this issue was going to flare up at the MN-8 convention in Nashwauk a few weeks ago. The death of Jim Oberstar, a messy leadership fight, and a concerted effort to save the emotional debate for the final round at the state convention combined to put off the mining discussion at that event. But there will be no avoiding the issue this weekend, as delegates gather in the seat of the 8th Congressional District, and face at least one key vote on a pro-mining resolution.

The resolution is meaningless in the big picture, of course — its passage or rejection will have no effect on whether new mines open or not. But that’s not what people get dressed up to hear. Iron Range DFLers want a firm show of support for mining from this convention, and they’re willing to go into a very emotional debate to get it. Further, I’d argue the chances of this amendment passing are mixed at best, which means that mining backers will become hurt and angry. Meantime, Republicans in Rochester will pass every hard-line pro-mining resolution they can muster because they zero environmentalists in their party, and don’t have to worry about a left flank in their general election strategy.

We’ll see how it turns out. I’ll be home in the woods, writing and raising a family. Conventioneering is safely in my past. I think. (I hope).

Also, here are some recent writings on Range politics worth a read:

  • MPR’s Tom Scheck went up north to explore mining politics ahead of this weekend’s DFL convention.
  • The Weekly Standard profiled the “changing Eighth” in a recent story, which is interesting but relies on the old notion that the Iron Range is the sole electoral determiner of the district. Until 75,000 brand new voters move here, those days are done.
  • I talked to the Star Tribune’s Allison Sherry yesterday for a pair of stories she’s writing on northern Minnesota politics. One of them is due this weekend.

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