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Democrats: Keep the endorsement process open

Ten months ago I took the Democrats of Senate District 10 to task for counting the ballots in their endorsement contest but declining to make the vote totals public.

Taylor Stevenson of Baxter won at least 60 percent of the votes and earned a first ballot victory against two candidates at that Crosby convention. The DFLers even passed a motion to destroy the ballots lest some janitor of nosy media type stumbled upon the results.

In an editorial I argued the refusal to release vote totals in that three-way race was silly and unfair to supporters who deserved to know how their candidate fared. Acknowledging the vote totals in a contested race just made sense.

News of last weekend’s DFL House District 14A endorsement convention almost makes me feel churlish about my previous criticism. At least the Senate District 10 Democrats let a reporter in the building.

A St. Cloud Times reporter was asked to leave Saturday’s House District 14A endorsing convention because of concern that a Republican tracker might attend. The winning candidate, Joanne Dorsher, said the request was made without her knowledge. She has asked her campaign to post a video of the convention online for anyone to view. The move to bar the reporter was contrary to party rules, DFL Party Chair Ken Martin said in a Star Tribune news story.

The fear of opposite party trackers — partisans on the lookout for candidate statements that might later be used against those endorsed politicians — is overwrought. Last March the same Democrats I criticized for destroying the deciding ballots allowed a newspaper reporter and the Crow Wing County Republican Party chair to attend their convention. Two of the three candidates endorsed at that open convention were elected last fall.

While political parties aren’t required to open up every strategy session to the public, by the time they get to the endorsing convention they should be ready to open the doors to everyone. Since we ask transparency of our elected officials, the same openness should be there in the candidate selection process.

Mike O’Rourke

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
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