MANKATO - Deadlocked after 14 hours and 23 ballots, the First District Republican endorsing convention decided to adjourna and try again in a couple of weeks to pick a challenger for Democratic Rep. Tim Walz.
Neither state Sen. Mike Parry nor former state Rep. Allen Quist managed to gain the 60 percent support needed for the endorsement. The marathon session of the 2012 Republican First District Convention lasted 14 hours with 23 deadlocked votes, six speeches by the candidates and five voted-down motions for "No Endorsement."
Parry (R-Waseca) and Quist duked it out all night and early morning for the endorsement. The intensity of the contest saw their debates morph from a joint referendum on Walz's record to an actual fight over which better represented Republican ideals.
Staff photo by Josh Moniz
A weary delegate catches a quick nap at the First District Republican Convention early Sunday morning. The convention adjourned at 2 a.m. after 23 ballots, with no decision on who will challenge Rep. Tim Walz.
The Unending Struggle
The situation that the Republican First District Convention delegates found themselves in early Sunday was a results the convention's bylaws, which require a 60 percent of the votes threshold to be able to endorse a candidate. A total of 282 delegates made up the pool of voters, so 170 votes were needed to win. However, the 60 percent margin scales to the number of actual votes received each ballot, with blank or improperly filled out ballots not counted. As the count ran through the night, delegates had left at a rate high enough to overcome the number of alternates stepping in to fill positions. The threshold needed by 23rd vote was 158 votes.
Despite the shrinking threshold, neither Parry nor Quist came close to achieving the needed number ballots. Quist came his closest to endorsement on the 20th and 21st ballots, when he was 25 votes short. Parry's closest total to the victory threshold was 19 votes short on the very first ballot.
The voting process took on cyclical nature throughout the day. Parry had a strong start and strong seventh ballot, but each time Quist peeled off roughly two votes at time over the next few ballots to draw even. The only big change happened on the 15th ballot, when Quist had a 10 vote win to get ahead of Parry for the first time. Quist stayed in a limited lead for the rest of the votes.
The determination of the delegates to select a candidate, even if it took all night, perpetuated the situation. Five different motions for no endorsement, which would have ended the process, were voted down with relatively large majorities.The most common argument against motion by delegates was a call to "finish the job they were sent to do."
Against Conventional Wisdom
Ultimately, the convention only adjourned when Kato Ballroom Manager Larry Bower announced he would forced to make the convention attendees leave by 2 a.m. He explained that he was required by city ordinances to have them out, and that he risked losing his liquor license if he let them stay. The convention rallied enough to fit in two more votes and a Motion to Recess in the final hour. The motion effectively paused the convention until it continues on another day.
However, the delegates were so devoted to their duty that the recess motion only passed with a 131 to 108 majority, with less than 10 minutes until their deadline.
The vote on the recess motion carried a requirement that the Republic First District leadership reconvene the within the next two to three weeks. At the most extreme, the proceedings of the convention would have to be completed by May 10 to meet state Republican guidelines.
Despite the delegates' focus on electing a leader, a common concern began to emerge among delegate speakers as the convention entered the early morning: the intensity and length of the endorsement battle was only helping Walz's congressional campaign.
"We've proven the definition of insanity by doing the same thing, over and over again, while expecting a different result," said one delegate who didn't identify himself.
Another delegate who argued in favor of an earlier vote for no endorsement begged the present delegates to end the proceedings before the candidates' challenges of each other made the race unwinnable.
Opponents First, then Candidates
The delegates' dire warning may have had merit since Parry and Quist, prior to the convention, have dodge overt criticism of each other. But the weekend proceedings had them dropping the gloves.
Parry called Quist unelectable against Walz because he carried liabilities that Walz used against prior opponents, such as taking farm subsidies and not being a veteran.
He also accused Quist of playing dirty, saying he wasn't willing to use things like negative statements Quist has made about women.
Quist accused Parry of being dishonest. He said responded to Parry's claim of not bring up his statements about women by holding up a related sheet Parry supporters had been handing out.
He also said Parry wasn't committed enough and hadn't committed $1 to the Parry campaign. He then promised to personally cover all money not fundraised up to his $1 million fundraising goal.
Finally, he said Parry made statements, like not being willing to bring troops home until jobs improved, that only helped Walz.
Besides challenging each other, Parry and Quist used position that could turn off moderates to gain votes.
During Friday's debate, Quist called President Barack Obama the biggest national security threat. The statement hews close to his 2010 statement that beating Obama was more important than defeating terrorism, which drew heavy criticism.
When asked Friday what votes he would change, Parry said he wouldn't have voted to end the state government shutdown. He said that he believed a deal more favorable to Republicans could have been struck.
Both candidates said they would eliminate the U.S. Department of Education and mostly eliminate the EPA.
Calm Before Another Storm
Parry and Quist vowed to campaign hard in the next two weeks. Parry expressed confidence, saying he believed he only lost votes to his supporters leaving. Quist said he gained by debunking Parry claims.
Whether the convention return will have any more success in picking a candidate remains to be seen, but either way it should be one for the history books.
Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at email@example.com