(MPR Photo/Tom Scheck)
With Mark Zdechlik and Conrad Wilson
About 2,200 Republican delegates gathered in St. Cloud today. Their main job is to endorse a candidate for U.S. Senate. They will also vote on Saturday to parcel out the remaining 13 delegates that will represent Minnesota at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
The morning’s session got bogged down as delegates debated convention rules and how the convention will operate.
Some shouted “you’re wrong” when Republican Party Chair Pat Shortridge announced that the party rules were mailed to every delegate. Others argued over the proper disclaimers on signs being raised on the convention floor.
Party officials are hoping that the U.S. Senate endorsement contest will start at noon.
There are five candidates vying for the party’s endorsement but there are three that are getting the most attention.
State Rep. Kurt Bills, R-Rosemount, is the expected front-runner. Bills has the backing of presidential hopeful Ron Paul, Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, and Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers. Bills is a high school economics teacher serving his first term in the state House.
Minnesota National Guard Army Captain Pete Hegseth is also running. Hegseth has garnered plenty of national support including Texas Gov. Rick Perry. He was also executive director for Vets for Freedom, which supported former President George W. Bush on the war in Iraq.
Former state Rep. Dan Severson is also running. Severson is also a military veteran and has the most election experience, running as the Republican nominee for Minnesota Secretary of State in 2010. He lost that race to Mark Ritchie.
Harold Shudlick and Bob Carney are also running.
The endorsement contest is expected to start around noon. A candidate needs to win 60 percent support to win the endorsement.
Some delegates are still weighing their options. Fred Wright of Moorhead said he’s not sure who he’ll support for the Senate nomination.
“I think we’ve got three very good conservative candidates right now,” Wright said. “Politically, ideologically they’re all good. So I think then it becomes a question of who’s got the strongest committee, who’s done the most leg work, who a lot of the delegates feel is the most electable. It’s going to an interesting day.”
Bills, Severson and Hegseth have all agreed to step aside if one of the others wins party backing.
As MPR’s Mark Zdechlik reported this morning, Ron Paul and his backers are exhibiting some strength at the convention.
Paul has announced that he’s no longer actively campaigning for the White House but is still seeking delegate support at state conventions. Paul is expected to address the convention tonight. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is expected to win the presidential nomination.
Party leaders are hoping that any disputes between Paul supporters and Romney supporters is handled amicably. Arguments betwen factions at some other state party conventions resulted in shouts and fighting.
Shortridge started the convention by suggesting the group leave the convention unified and end “Republican on Republican violence.”
Will be updated….