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A role switch: DFL united, GOP fighting
By Laura McCallum
Minnesota Public Radio
May 6, 2002


Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe was back at the Capitol Monday, two days after winning the DFL endorsement for governor. The party appears to be united behind Moe, who will likely spend the next two weeks juggling campaign work with the legislative session. His potential opponents for governor are starting to take shots at Moe - and each other.

Sen. Roger Moe appeared at a DFL unity rally, surrounded by the party's endorsed candidates for statewide office.
(MPR Photo/Laura McCallum)

Moe appeared at a DFL unity rally, surrounded by the party's endorsed candidates for statewide office. Moe doesn't face a serious primary challenge from within his own party, unlike four years ago, when five candidates challenged endorsed gubernatorial candidate Mike Freeman in the primary. State Auditor Judi Dutcher, who conceded the endorsement to Moe on Saturday, attended the rally to show her support.

"I am so excited to be here today to support a man who I do consider my friend, who has the knowledge, the passion, and frankly the leadership style that's going to take this state forward," she said.

State Sen. Becky Lourey, who also sought the DFL endorsement for governor, did not attend the unity rally. But Moe says he talked to Lourey, and she has pledged her support for the ticket.

Attorney General Mike Hatch, who won his first-ever DFL endorsement, had been considered a potential primary challenger in the governor's race, depending on which candidate the party endorsed. But Hatch made it clear he's backing Moe.

"This is an endorsed ticket that even I can support," Hatch said.

The usually-stoic Moe says the ticket has the advantage of a six-week head start on its Republican opponents, who hold their state convention in mid-June.

"What that means for us is an opportunity to broaden our base, solidify our base, and be prepared so that when their conventions are done, we will be at full steam and full speed ahead," he said.

Sen. Paul Wellstone also appeared at the rally. Wellstone won a unanimous endorsement in his bid for re-election.
(MPR Photo/Laura McCallum)

Moe's Republican opponent will likely be either House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty or entrepreneur Brian Sullivan, who are both seeking the party endorsement for governor.

Sullivan's campaign manager, Tony Sutton, says Sullivan would be happy to run against Moe, because of Moe's extensive voting record over his 30 years in the Senate. He says voters don't want longevity in the Legislature, they want experience in the real world.

"If it's Roger Moe versus Tim Pawlenty, it's kind of six in the one hand, half a dozen in the other. Two legislators, two career politicians, in a DFL-leaning state, it kind of favors Moe. But if it's Sullivan versus Moe, with the outsider, the real world experience, the young fresh leadership, I think it cuts a pretty strong contrast," Sutton said.

Pawlenty represents Eagan and grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood in South St. Paul. He says if he gets the Republican endorsement, he takes away Moe's "home-field advantage."

"Sen. Moe has deep Minnesota roots, so do I. Brian Sullivan doesn't. Sen. Moe has public leadership experience, so do I. Brian Sullivan doesn't. Sen. Moe is somebody who, I think, could appeal to people that the Republican Party needs to reach out to better - women, people of color, people of modest incomes, so can I because of my background," Pawlenty said.

Moe's other potential rivals include Gov. Ventura, who hasn't said whether he's running for re-election, and Green Party candidate Ken Pentel - and four other candidates - seeking party endorsement.

Pentel was the party's endorsed candidate four years ago. Pentel says Moe and the Republican candidates aren't talking about issues the Green Party supports, such as campaign finance reform, social justice and universal health care. He says of the DFL candidates, Lourey had the best chance to appeal to the Greens.

"I think that Sen. Lourey had the most overlap with the Green Party, no doubt about it. She's taken some strong stands and good policy positions, much different than Sen. Moe has," Pentel said.

Moe says if Green Party members look at the DFL platform, they'll realize the two parties share the same concerns about affordable housing, the environment and other issues.

While Moe's campaign gets underway, Moe must also focus on ending the legislative session. He says he'll continue to negotiate with House Republicans, but says the Senate's positions on the budget, bonding and transportation haven't changed since the DFL convention.

More from MPR
  • Audio: Sen. Roger Moe on MPR's Midday
  • Audio: Sen. Paul Wellstone on MPR's Midday