Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Party endorsement may hold weight in primary election

Owatonna People's Press
Posted: Saturday, September 6, 2008 10:20 pm

OWATONNA — Dick Day’s election record heading into Tuesday’s primary election against Brian Davis is 13-1. He hasn’t been defeated in any race since 1982.“We’re hoping to go 14-1,” Day said on Friday.

Day is a political heavyweight in the Minnesota Republican Party, having served a number of leadership positions in the Senate and the state Republican Party. And while he’s respected by many, Day has also drawn the ire from liberals for some colorful comments he’s made about Minneapolis schools. He’s also drawn the ire from members of his own party for going alone in primary battles against party-endorsed candidates like Davis. When Day made the decision to bypass the endorsement, it angered many party leaders and delegates.

As punishment, the state Republican Party stripped Day of any party and fundraising resources. He also had the state party’s chairman Ron Carey call for his resignation. All the while, Day hasn’t been fazed.

“People have come up to me, and say, ‘Hey , thanks for giving us the opportunity to vote,’” Day said. And while Day’s supporters back him, former state Sen. Mel Frederick, one of his former opponents, said having the party endorsement helps a party introduce a candidate to perspective voters.

“I feel that the party isn’t snubbing him because he snubbed them first,” Frederick said.Frederick lost to Day in a 1990 primary by a mere 26 votes. Frederick isn’t upset that he lost to a political outsider, but by the way he lost.

In 1990, Frederick failed to garner enough votes to earn the district’s party nomination. Day bypassed the party endorsement and challenged Frederick to a primary.The weekend prior to the primary, a flyer circulated around Owatonna accusing Frederick of supporting abortion, something Frederick said was misleading.

“I’ve never liked him. I’ve never trusted him,” Frederick said.

Day didn’t have much of a problem winning this election. But if Day wins Tuesday, Frederick said he has a tough chance when it comes to defeating Democratic Congressman Tim Walz in the general election.

“That’s the value of an endorsement,” Frederick said. “It would be a tough uphill battle.”

Republican state Rep. Randy Demmer of Hayfield said Day threw his campaign, along with Davis’ campaign, a curve ball when he announced he was bypassing the First District convention.

Prior to the convention, the candidate pledged to abide by the party’s endorsement — something Demmer still plans to do Tuesday.

“I’m not sure if it’s fair for me to go the other way,” he said.

Day, meanwhile, has not felt bad about campaigning in primaries. He said those are the best ways for voters to decide whether or not their candidate is the best, as opposed to party activists. Plus, he knew going in that he was in what he called a “Day vs. Goliath” contest.

“I’m very glad I went the opportunity the way I went,” Day said. “There’s primaries in the Republican party... and it’ll be kind of interesting to watch how this all works out.”

Demmer said if Day were to win the primary, there may be some wounds that would have to heal. But he was confident people would rally around Day before the general election.Day, meanwhile, isn’t concerned if he loses because he’ll still have a Senate seat and two years left to serve out his term.

Jeff Cagle can be reached at 444-2378.