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Lourey says she won't bend in decision to challenge Hatch

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Lourey says she won't bend in decision to challenge Hatch
Red Wing Minnesota 2760 North Service Drive / P.O. Box 15 55066

ROCHESTER -- Democratic Party Chairman Brian Melendez wants to talk to Becky Lourey. So does Mike Hatch, the party's endorsed candidate for governor.

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But they are not going to like what she has to say.

Melendez and Hatch want Lourey to drop out of the governor's race, allowing Hatch to concentrate on beating Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Nov. 7.

"We, the party, are behind Mike Hatch," Melendez said Sunday as the state Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party convention wound down in Rochester's Mayo Civic Center.

Calling Lourey a "fairly weak" candidate, the party chairman said it would be best for her to step aside in favor of Hatch. After convention delegates endorsed Hatch Saturday night, he strongly hinted he also would ask Lourey to drop out.

On Sunday, Lourey said she is waiting for the two leaders to call her. And she has her answer ready.

"I do respect the 1,200 people at this convention ... but we have a message for 5 million people in Minnesota," Lourey said.

The state senator from Kerrick, in east-central Minnesota, said she absolutely will not bend in her decision to challenge Hatch in the Sept. 12 primary election. And if Hatch asks her to be his running mate, she also will reject that.

Wearing blue jeans and standing in a corridor just outside the convention, Lourey repeatedly said she wanted to discuss issues with voters and just as often refused to say how she differs from Hatch.

"I am not controlled by anyone" was the closest she came to criticizing Hatch, but she would not explain what she meant by the comment.

She was not clear about how voters will be able to decide whether to vote for Hatch or her. "They will differentiate by the vision," she said.

Lourey was forced out of competition for the party's endorsement after four rounds of balloting Saturday, following a gradual erosion of support. Hatch, who lives in Burnsville, won the endorsement over state Sen. Steve Kelley of Hopkins after seven ballots.

Earlier in the weekend, Democrats endorsed Amy Klobuchar for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by another Democrat, Mark Dayton. However, Ford Bell says he will oppose her in the primary.

Melendez said he did not think both Lourey and Bell will follow-through with their plans to run in the Sept. 12 primary. But both said during the weekend that nothing would change their minds.

Even some of the convention delegates who supported Lourey wondered about her decision to challenge Hatch, the two-term attorney general who has wanted to be governor for two decades.

"The Minnesota DFL needs to focus on who won the race," delegate Kathy Hughes of Alexandria said.

While she and her partner, Patty Puyear, said they have not decided how they will vote in the primary, Hughes said there is a possibility the Lourey challenge could hurt Hatch's chances.

Nancy Larson of Dassel, a former statewide candidate who has been involved in party politics since the 1970s, said she has doubts Lourey actually will go through with the primary campaign. Larson, a Hatch organizer on the convention floor, said even if Lourey does challenge Hatch, "that is not necessarily bad. It brings out some issues that need to be discussed."

Lourey's supporters generally are so involved in politics that they will vote on Nov. 7, even without the state senator on the ticket, and Hatch will be their choice, Larson said. "What are their alternatives?" she asked, adding that they won't vote Republican.

Don Davis can be reached at ddavis@forumcomm.com

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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