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Former DFL Congressman Tim Penny is the Independence Party's endorsed candidate for governor. Nearly 90 percent of delegates to the party's state convention endorsed Penny on the first ballot in St. Cloud. Penny is pledging to change politics in Minnesota and to bring more Democrats, Republicans and non voters into the third party.
Although he served as a close advisor to Gov. Jesse Ventura, until his announced his bid for governor late last month Tim Penny was a Democrat. He's now the star of the Independence Party, and delegates to their convention moved endorsing Penny to the top of their slate early Saturday afternoon.
Party co-founder Dean Barkley nominated Penny and his running mate, state Sen. Martha Robertson, IP-Minnetonka, who left the Republican party early last week.
"I think we have a dynamite ticket -- a Democrat that's too conservative and a Republican that's too liberal," he said.
In accepting the endorsement, Penny told delegates he would draw on the best ideas of both major parties but put innovation before ideology. And Penny pledged to bring more people to the polls and to the Independence Party.
"Tens upon thousands of Minnesotans are ready for something different, something better. As we go forward we will see our ranks from the top and from the grassroots bottom. Republicans will join us. Democrats will join us. Non voters will become voters and join us," Penny said.
Since Penny jumped to the Independence Party and launched his campaign for governor a little more than two weeks ago, several current and former state lawmakers -- Democrats and Republicans -- have followed suit.
Penny told delegates the party faces an historic opportunity to change politics in Minnesota. "This campaign is about a new kind of politics. It is about bring people together and moving Minnesota forward and focusing on results. It is about the vast majority of voters in the sensible center who for too long have felt left out of the process."
Penny says he hopes to raise as much as $1 million for his campaign, about a third of which will come from state matching funds. He's pledging to accept no special interest money and to run no negative campaign ads.
Outside the auditorium at St. Cloud State University, where the Independence Party Convention was held, Penny told reporters the centerpiece of his campaign will be a leadership style he says will bring Minnesotans together.
"Folks in Minnesota are hungry from an end to partisanship and a sense of cooperation on the things that manner. What does matter? We need to get this state's fiscal house in order. We need to return the budget to balance but we need to do that in a balanced fashion," Penny said.
Penny also talked about addressing education problems, particularly in inner city schools. And says mass transit must be part of the answer to road congestion.
Penny says as he campaigns for governor he's expecting and looking forward to help from Gov. Jesse Ventura, who convinced him to run. The governor was released from the hospital Friday after treatment for a blood clot in his lung, and did not attend the convention.
Many party activists openly acknowledge they think the party will be in better shape with Penny on the ticket than it would have been had Ventura decided to run again.
Rob Tomich says he's been active in what was the Reform Party and is now the Independence Party for six years. "If you think about the governor for a second, I think he was perfectly suited to kick the door open and I think Tim Penny -- if he's elected -- might be able to get some of the things done that Jesse got started. He might have a little more savoy not only to bring it up and fight for it but get it done."
Among the items on the party's platform:
-Support a priority paydown of the national debt.
-Some personal choice issues, for instance abortion, are beyond the scope of partisan politics, and positions on them should be left to an individual's conscience and not to party ideology.
-Let voters vote on replacing Minnesota's bicameral legislature with a one-house legislature.
-Ban unlimited and unregulated "independent expenditures" that political parties make to elect or defeat candidates.
Independence Party members endorsed a commercial banker, Jim Moore, for U.S. Senate over Alan Fine, a lecturer at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.
Fine agreed to drop out of the race, giving Moore a clear shot to November unless someone else files for the office by Tuesday.
He knows that even with no competition from within his own party, it's going to be a tough race.
He'll be building his name recognition from scratch and he'll be entering what's expected to be the most expensive race in state history - against Republican Norm Coleman, Democrat Paul Wellstone and Ed McGaa of the Green Party.
But, he said, it's worth the fight.
"There's too many people in our state and in our nation who don't have a voice anymore," he said.
A Minneapolis public affairs consultant and former political science professor was endorsed Saturday by the Independence Party for secretary of state.
Dean Alger, the author of four books on public policy and an advocate of election-and campaign-finance reform, said "Independence Party people get it."
He had no competition.
Alger, who taught at Minnesota State University Moorhead, worked briefly for U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone's 1990 campaign.
On Saturday, he hawked a music compact disc he is releasing called, "Election Day Blues."
A retired Army officer and teacher won the endorsement of Independence Party members in his bid for state auditor.
Dave Hutcheson of St. Joseph said he would work full-time as a campaigner until the election. He had no competition.
He said it was time to send Minnesotans a message of "true democracy" and said he would help get as many people as possible out to vote.
"This year is the year this party has been building for for years," he said.
NATHAN NOT ENDORSED
In the attorney general's race, Independence Party members decided not to endorse a lawyer who has been charged by a state board with unprofessional conduct.
The screening committee for the IP had recommended that Dale Nathan not be considered for endorsement because committee members didn't think he would be able to defend himself and run for office.
Nathan said that wouldn't be the case.
He said the charge stemmed from an order by a judge for him to tell him what a client had told Nathan in confidence. He refused.
"I have always fought for what I believe is right and that has made me controversial," he said.
Now that the Independence Party has candidates, it needs money.
Buckets of it.
That's why IP member Ron Lischeid crisscrossed the auditorium Saturday, carrying four huge orange buckets stacked together into a six-foot long, money-collecting cylinder.
"I'm not going home until it's full," he said.
State Rep. Dale Swapinski is changing parties.
He was narrowly beat for the DFL endorsement in the spring by fellow Rep. Mike Jaros. The two were put into the same district by a court-drawn redistricting map. He earlier had agreed to abide by the party's endorsement, meaning he couldn't run again as a Democrat.
On Saturday, he said he was moving to the Independence Party.
"I'm not ready to quit," he said outside the auditorium, dressed head to toe in leather, ready to hop on his Harley Davidson motorcycle. "I will run as an independent Democrat."
He was first elected in 1999 in a special election to fill Willard Munger's seat when Munger died. He was re-elected in 2000.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.More from MPR