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Local delegates sift through large field

Of the many DFL conventions Duluth City Councilor Sharla Gardner said she's been to, the one in Duluth is the first where she doesn't know who she'll support for governor.

Of the many DFL conventions Duluth City Councilor Sharla Gardner said she's been to, the one in Duluth is the first where she doesn't know who she'll support for governor.

When it comes to who she'll support -- she's an alternate delegate, meaning she only gets a vote if a full delegate drops out -- she's said she's looking for someone who can win a statewide race.

"We've been out of power for so long," she said.

Of the 21 delegates from St. Louis County sitting together at the convention, 10 have listed themselves as undecided for governor. But all they have to do is turn their head to find someone who is trying to sway their vote, as the rest of the delegates are generally split between supporters of R.T. Rybak, Margaret Anderson Kelliher, John Marty and Paul Thiessen.

"I'm talking with people to tell them why I support R.T.," said Duluth Mayor Don Ness, who went through the county convention process to be elected as a delegate.

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Ness has a busy schedule. Though a crucial City Council vote on the purchase of NorShor and Temple Opera buildings is coming Monday, Ness was at the convention the entire time Friday and plans to do the same today. He also hosted a "Progressive Pub Crawl" with several other Duluth delegates as party faithful bar-hopped through Duluth.

Ness said he'll continue to lobby for Rybak through the endorsement process, saying it's likely that he and Kelliher will be the two finalists.

"I haven't considered anything else beyond that," he said.

For the undecided, local delegates say that while they're looking for a candidate who naturally will support their beliefs, they also say they'll support whoever wins the nomination.

"We need to rally around one strong candidate," said Pete Johnson, a Duluth firefighter. "And I'm trying to find the one who has the best total package."

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