Citing himself too far behind Mayor Minneapolis Rybak and Speaker of the House Kelliher to catch up given the many as-yet uncommitted delegates, Rep. Tom Bakk has dropped out of Minnesota’s gubernatorial race. In an interview on March 20, 2010 in Duluth Bakk said he didn’t have the time the break through to those delegates.
“I’ve decided to continue to focus my energies on the most immediate needs of the state – namely balancing the state budget in as fair and sensible a way as possible and putting in place policies that will restart our stalled economy,” Bakk said. “Running for the DFL endorsement for governor has been a great experience and I believe meeting so many people from across the state will make me a stronger legislator.”
The uncommitted DFL delegates are largely assumed to be supporters of former Sen. Mark Dayton who chose not to seek the party’s endorsement but whose name will appear on the primary ballot. However, many if not most of the uncommitted delegates are either truly undecided or subcaucused as supporters of specific issues or congressional candidates rather than for a named gubernatorial candidate.
Neither Sen. Dayton nor the frontrunners should be complacent at this point. This race is still on. Bakk’s decision to drop from the race may shift some Iron Range votes to Rep. Tom Rukavina (not Dayton) giving him an unforeseen boost – and committed delegates have the right to change their votes when they get to the state convention on April 23. In fact, some will have to if an endorsement is to be secured at the convention. Delegates who favor Dayton will likely vote “no endorsement” making it more difficult (but not impossible) for any candidate to reach the 60% of votes required to secure the endorsement.
The fact that so many delegates remain uncommitted at this point speaks to the need for a clear-cut choice for voters who have been disappointed in Republican Gov. Pawlenty’s leadership. The endorsement process is a democratic one that serves the purpose of giving voters that clear-cut choice. Uncommitted DFL delegates must carefully consider their responsibility to offer voters an alternative to the gubernatorial status quo.