Delegates to the Republican state convention unanimously endorsed U.S. Senate candidate Norm Coleman, in his campaign to unseat DFL Sen. Paul Wellstone. Coleman wasted no time in attacking Wellstone's record.
In accepting the Republican Party endorsement for Senate, Norm Coleman hammered on incumbent DFLer Paul Wellstone. Coleman told the delegates it won't be easy to unseat the two-term incumbent.
"Let me tell you what we're up against. Control of the U.S. Senate is at stake. That means for every Democrat in Washington, Paul Wellstone is the difference between power and spectator status. If Attila the Hun was the guy that made their majority, they'd embrace him like he was Mother Theresa," Coleman said.
From a podium in the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul - an arena Coleman is credited with bringing to St. Paul when he was mayor - he listed some of his major accomplishments. The Science Museum and the Lawson Software building were built in downtown St. Paul. And has mayor, there were no property tax increases for eight years.
Red, white and blue signs posted throughout the convention read: "Norm Coleman - bringing people together to get things done."
"Republicans and Democrats. Business and government. Management and labor. We all came together in St. Paul, we got a lot done," Coleman said. "Minnesota is a big state, and Washington is a tremendous challenge. But the Bible says that those who have been faithful in little things will be entrusted."
Coleman reached out to rural Minnesotans, pledging to open and regularly visit offices in three non-metro congressional districts. And he spoke about cutting taxes, improving education, expanding markets for farmers, creating more affordable housing, and bolstering support for law enforcement and the military.
But again and again he came back to Wellstone.
"They don't need a professor, a protester, a tax raiser or a hell-raiser. What do all of the people of Minnesota need? They need a leader who can get the job done," he said.
Coleman said he wants to be Minnesota's mayor in Washington, and Coleman took Wellstone to task for breaking his pledge not to seek more than two terms in the Senate.
"Senator Wellstone, thank you for your passion and your service. But you were right in the '90s - two terms is enough. The time has come to go," Coleman said.
Standing outside the Xcel Center, Wellstone's communications director Jim Farrell accused Coleman of running a relentlessly negative campaign, and he suggested the approach will help Wellstone.
"Senator Wellstone, thank you for your passion and your service. But you were right in the '90s - two terms is enough. The time has come to go."
- GOP Senate candidate Norm Coleman
"Norm Coleman is rerunning the Boschwitz campaign of '96 - just running a wholly negative campaign against Paul Wellstone, saying things about Paul Wellstone that he knows are not true," Farrell said. "You know it will backfire - I will make a prediction, because in Minnesota we expect better."
Farrell noted that six years ago Coleman, then a DFl'er, spoke in favor of Wellstone's re-election at the DFL state convention. Coleman's campaign says it is not personally attacking Wellstone, and makes no apologies for going after the senator's record.
Prior to Coleman's endorsement, the convention heard a videotaped message from President Bush, the man Coleman says convinced him to run for Senate rather than governor.
"I look forward to working with all of you to make Norm Coleman our next senator," Bush said in the video.
In March, Bush appeared at a Minneapolis fund-raiser for Colema. The president is planning to return early next month for another fund-raiser, being billed as a "Rally for Leadership."
Political analysts predict Coleman and Wellstone combined will spend upwards of $20 million on the Senate contest, and that doesn't include millions more in soft money and independent expenditures that's already pouring into Minnesota.More from MPR