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Pawlenty wins marathon for GOP endorsement
By Tom Scheck
Minnesota Public Radio
June 15, 2002


Tim Pawlenty is the Republican candidate for governor. It took delegates at the Republican state convention 12 ballots and 17 hours to give the nod to Pawlenty, the House majority leader. Pawlenty defeated Orono businessman Brian Sullivan, who conceded the race after Pawlenty received support from 58 percent of the convention's 2,200 delegates.

Tim Pawlenty
House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty won the GOP endorsement for governor after a 17-hour marathon voting session at the state Republican convention. He defeated businessman Brian Sullivan, who conceded after the 12th ballot. Listen to his acceptance speech.
(MPR Photo/Tom Scheck)

Pawlenty and Sullivan were engaged in a marathon endorsement process that started on Friday morning and lasted until 2:45 a.m. Saturday. Pawlenty led the delegate count throughout most of the day, and was finally endorsed by acclamation when it became clear he would win on a 13th ballot. In his acceptance speech, he thanked delegates for their endurance.

"I've said it before and I'll say it again, democracy only works when people show up. It's one thing to show up - it's quite another to stay until three in the morning. Thank you very much," he said.

Pawlenty's running mate, State Rep. Carol Molnau, was endorsed by a voice vote.

Delegate support was split throughout the day. At one point, only nine delegate votes seperated the two candidates.

Both campaigns issued leaflets, used word of mouth and old- fashioned arm-twisting to get delegate votes. The candidates agreed on many issues. Both brought up their support for a statewide tax cut, the elimination of the Profile of Learning graduation standard and opposition to legal abortion. Pawlenty says he will now prepare to face DFL candidate Roger Moe, Green Party candidate Ken Pentel and, if he decides to run, Gov. Ventura.

"We are going to move Minnesota out of an era of complacency. We are going to move Minnesota out of an era of leadership by entertainment and press conference," said Pawlenty. "We're going to get about the business of returning this state to a standard of excellence in those things that matter."

Pawlenty touted his nine years of legislative experience and Minnesota background. Sullivan positioned himself as a political outsider, who said his business experience would help the state. Some estimates say Sullivan spent more than $2 million of his own money on the campaign.

Despite a sometimes heated campaign, Sullivan said in his concession speech he will support Pawlenty, and he will make a contribution to Pawlenty's campaign.

Brian Sullivan
Brian Sullivan greeted Tim Pawlenty after Sullivan conceded the GOP endorsement to the House Majority Leader. He promised to help Pawlenty win in November. Listen to his concession speech.
(MPR Photo/Laura McCallum)

"The convention has spoken, and now we must get on with the real work. Let's term limit Jesse. Let's put away Roger. I want to get that done. I want to congratulate Tim Pawlenty and Tim, I'll do what you need. I'll go wherever you want. Let's get Tim Pawlenty elected as the next governor of Minnesota," Sullivan said.

Some delegates were worried at times that they would leave the convention without endorsing either candidate. The delegates even voted on a motion to not endorse. It was soundly rejected. Benton County delegate Gregg Piper says he's glad Sullivan conceded. He says the Republican Party now has a better chance of winning the governor's office in November.

"We've got a strong candidate who knows what he wants. He has an entire party behind him. A party that's rejuvanated, a party that's growing in this area, and will really help us take those fence sitters and dethrone Jesse off his hill in St. Paul," Piper said.

Republican Party Chair Ron Eibensteiner says he was relieved the party endorsed a candidate and avoided a primary battle. He says Pawlenty's political experience and Minnesota background will play well with undecided and middle-of-the-road voters.

"Both candidates are conservative on the issues. But the one thing that Tim probably has an edge over Brian Sullivan over is the more inclusive style," Eibensteiner said. "(He) will probably be more effective in getting the votes of the people who regard themselves as independents."

The delegates also endorsed Eagan Mayor Pat Awada for state auditor, and Minneapolis attorney Tom Kelly for state attorney general.

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