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Republicans set to pick candidate

MINNEAPOLIS -- It took Republicans until 3 a.m. to pick their gubernatorial candidate the last time two major candidates fought for their endorsement.

MINNEAPOLIS -- It took Republicans until 3 a.m. to pick their gubernatorial candidate the last time two major candidates fought for their endorsement.

No one expects that to happen Friday as delegates meet at the Minneapolis Convention Center, when the party will pick its 2010 candidate.

The 13-ballot marathon needed to choose between Tim Pawlenty and Brian Sullivan may be unlikely, but so is a one-ballot endorsement some Republican activists predict, the party chairman said.

"I would be shocked," Chairman Tony Sutton said when asked about the single-ballot prediction.

State Reps. Tom Emmer of Delano and Marty Seifert of Marshall appear to be the only viable GOP candidates for governor, and they have been in a heated tussle in recent days.

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Seifert campaign supporters have been critical of Emmer for working on drunken-driving bills after he was convicted of the crime 20 and 30 years ago. When announcing his running mate earlier this week, Emmer shot back that the Seifert campaign appears interested in what he did in elementary school.

The dustup provided a little extra interest as Republicans head into their convention, which they say will result in a replacement for two-term Gov. Pawlenty, who announced last June that he would not run again.

Also adding significance to the convention is the Tea Party movement sweeping the country.

The loosely organized Tea Party, which backs limited government and lower taxes, helped boost convention preregistration, Sutton said. Before the convention, 2,200 delegates and alternates had registered, more than any time since 2002.

"We have a lot of Tea Party folks who are active in the party," Sutton said about the turnout. "Some of this [turnout] is being driven by that. Some of it is that we have a close contest for the gubernatorial endorsement. There is this enthusiasm because people are really frustrated by what is going on in Washington and want to do something about it."

While the highlight will be the Friday endorsement for governor, activity begins tonight with endorsement for state auditor.

Former Auditor Pat Anderson of Dellwood, ousted from the office by Democrat Rebecca Otto four years ago, is joined by state auditor's employee Jeff Wiita of Minnetonka, Mayor Randy Gilbert of Long Lake and ex-St. Paul school board member Tom Conlon.

The convention wraps up Saturday with a breakfast featuring Pawlenty, a rally and various reports.

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Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the News Tribune.

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