Published - Monday, March 31, 2008
By Mark Sommerhauser Winona Daily News
The Minnesota Republican Party has picked its candidate to challenge Democratic Rep. Tim Walz in November.
But Republican voters may have the final say in a September primary that would pit a political outsider against a political veteran.
GOP delegates from Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District selected Brian Davis, a Mayo Clinic physician, at Saturday’s endorsing convention in Albert Lea.
On the first ballot, Davis received 160 delegate votes to 100 votes for Rep. Randy Demmer, R-Hayfield.
Davis said Sunday that he was pleased Republican delegates came to a quick consensus.
“I was honored and humbled and also a little surprised that this happened as quickly as it did,” Davis said.
But unlike most campaigns, the endorsement doesn’t necessarily determine who’ll be on the general election ballot with Walz.
Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna, announced in February that he would force a primary by skipping the GOP endorsing convention.
The candidates bring contrasting resumes — Davis has never held elected office, while Day has been in the Minnesota Senate since 1990.
Day highlighted that difference in a Sunday interview.
“We’re going to find out whether people want experience, or if they think this is a job for on-the-job training,” Day said. “(Davis) has never been involved in anything political.”
Davis, meanwhile, said his campaign will focus on Walz between now and the July filing deadline for the primary.
Davis cited Walz’s positions on taxes and illegal immigration as points of contrast.
“It should become clear that Tim Walz doesn’t represent the values of southern Minnesota,” Davis said.
The Walz campaign said Saturday that it has begun outreach efforts in Winona, Rochester and Mankato. The first-term teacher from Mankato had raised about $1.15 million by the end of 2007.
“Republicans Brian Davis and Dick Day offer nothing more than the same failed politics that have led America into recession, debt and insecurity,” Minnesota DFLers said in a release.
Some observers believe the Davis-Day split will benefit Walz, who already has a commanding fundraising lead. In a Saturday article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota GOP chair Ron Carey commented on Day’s candidacy, saying he is “giving Tim Walz a free pass.”
Day said he doesn’t believe his battle with Davis will dampen Republican prospects in November.
“It will make both of us work harder,” Day said.