DFL endorses Franken for U.S. Senate race

Despite a rocky few months for U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken, he won the DFL's endorsement over Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer in one vote Saturday at the party's convention in Rochester.

Despite a rocky few months for U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken, he won the DFL's endorsement over Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer in one vote Saturday at the party's convention in Rochester.

Nelson-Pallmeyer moved for the unanimous endorsement after Franken gathered more than the minimum 60 percent of delegate votes.

Jeanette Martimo, chairwoman of the Duluth Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and a Nelson-Pallmeyer supporter, said the mood at the convention was one of party unity.

"I have my Franken shirt on as we speak," she said in a phone interview after the vote. "We have an endorsed candidate and we will stand behind him."

Judging from the intense scrutiny Franken faced before he was chosen by the party, Minnesotans are in for five months of mud slinging.


The contest for the Democratic challenger to oppose U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman in November was supposed to have easily fallen into Franken's hands. He had the deep pockets and a cadre of celebrities, both political and not, to replenish them, and he had the name recognition.

But what was once a certainty became increasingly less so as state Republicans performed devastating document dumps in recent months detailing Franken's workers' comp and tax problems. They also have excavated a number of unflattering writings from his days as a satirist, most notably a raunchy article from a 2000 issue of Playboy. Last week both Republicans and Democrats admonished Franken for a skit he had proposed for Saturday Night Live involving rape.

Franken briefly addressed the fallout at the convention in a speech before balloting started.

"It kills me that things I said and wrote sent a message to some of my friends in this room and people in this state that they can't count on me to be a champion for women, a champion for all Minnesotans, in this campaign and in the Senate," Franken said.

Since the campaign's troubles came to light, Franken's challenger Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer had benefited from increasing delegate support that he had believed would result in the 60 percent of the vote needed to clinch the endorsement.

"This shift to my campaign has taken place over months," Nelson-Pallmeyer said in an interview last week. "It's not rooted in the problems Al Franken's been having; it's rooted in the excitement in Minnesota."

Nelson-Pallmeyer has certainly been more under-the-radar than his opponent, not necessarily quietly campaigning but doing so with much less media fanfare. He has enjoyed a strong base in Duluth since before the state's Feb. 5 caucuses; state and national delegate Tonya Sconiers estimated three-quarters of Duluth delegates were "for Jack." Though disappointed with the results, his supporters were fully supportive of Franken's bid for the seat, she said.

"There's definitely disappointment, because we thought Jack was the best candidate to lead us forward," said Sconiers, an assistant principal at Denfeld High School.


UMD history professor Bill Miller, also a state DFL delegate from the Duluth area, but one who supported Franken, said he was unfazed by the barrage of attacks and didn't think they would derail Franken's candidacy.

"There certainly have been more comment about those things, and I suspect there will be a number of delegates concerned about the issues," Miller said in an interview before the convention. "Even the folks who have criticized him still expect Al Franken will be endorsed."

The race became even more complicated last week when lawyer Mike Ciresi, who dropped out of the race in March, hinted he might be interested in running in September's primary. Ciresi, like Franken and Nelson-Pallmeyer, had promised to abide by the party's endorsement. Miller said he didn't think DFLers would look too kindly on Ciresi going back on his word if he did decide to run.

"Party regulars tend to view running against an endorsed candidate very negatively," Miller said. "They would remember his earlier promises."

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