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Plenty of governor candidates at convention

ROCHESTER, Minn. - If Democrats attending their state convention counted the number of 2010 governor candidates on their fingers, they ran out of digits.

Convention delegates do not pick a governor candidate for two more years, but plenty of potential candidates - and the sole announced one - appeared at the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party's three-day convention in Rochester's Mayo Civic Center.

"Potential" is the key word, said Susan Gaertner, the only candidate definitely running so far.

"How many will eventually be willing to give up their powerful jobs" is the key, she added.

Those thought to be interested in the job or whose names often pop up on the subject include Gaertner, state Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook, state Rep. Tom Rukavina of Virginia, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher of Minneapolis, former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, former state Rep. Doug Peterson, State Auditor Rebecca Otto, former state Rep. Matt Entenza, U.S. Rep. Tim Walz and state Sen. Tarryl Clark.

Some deny they want to run, like Walz, while others - such as Bakk, Rukavina, Peterson and Dayton - say they are thinking about running. But most of them were at the convention talking to many Democratic-Farmer-Labor activists.

Rukavina always is a center of attention, and even more so now that he is talking about a governor run.

"I represent the farmer-labor wing of the DFL Party," he said, adding that he would expect support from both of those categories.

Bakk is another other Iron Ranger examining a run, but Rukavina had confidence his neighbors will back him. "I'll venture to say I will get most of their support."

But Bakk didn't see it that way. "At the end of the day, he won't be in," the senator said of Rukavina.

Peterson, Minnesota Farmers Union president and a former state representative from western Minnesota, said delegates he talked to are interested in a governor candidate from greater Minnesota. Peterson said he will decide by this fall whether to run.

Peterson predicted Democrats only will take the governor's office in two years if their candidate is from outside the Twin Cities.

State lawmakers enjoyed watching their colleagues exploring a run for governor as they worked the convention floor.

Sen. Dan Skogen, a Hewitt Democrat and convention delegate, said the number of possible governor candidates is good for the party.

"Steel against steel sharpens the knife," Skogen said.

Rukavina said the public is not ready for a three-year governor campaign, so he will decide next year for sure whether he will run, even though he was handing out campaign buttons at the convention.

But Gaertner said that long campaigns are needed.

"I have a lot of people to meet and a lot of issues to discuss with Minnesotans, particularly outside the metro area," she said.

As Ramsey County attorney, Gaertner added, she has a time-consuming day job, so she relegates her campaign work to nights and weekends.

Former Gov. Wendell Anderson, attending the convention, said now is not too soon to start campaigning.

"There are 87 counties," he said. "Stop and think how large this state is. ... You cannot start six months before the election."

Campaign starts

Democrats launch their statewide general election campaign this morning.

U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken will be joined by other party leaders at the Capitol today as Franken begins a statewide post-convention tour.

Before he began the tour, Franken said reporters have their own work to do as well.

Franken said reporters covering the race should focus on issues and policy differences between himself and GOP Sen. Norm Coleman, not on campaign controversies.

"All too often what the media concentrates on is inside baseball in politics and not on the issues that people care about," Franken told reporters. "And that's why people sometimes get angry at the media as well as angry at politicians."

Rural misses out

Nancy Larson, elected a national committee woman during the convention, said rural Americans will have a tougher time than their city neighbors following the presidential election.

The McCain-Obama campaign will capture Americans' attention, the Dassel Democrat said. "I think people will continue to watch."

However, rural Minnesotans have less opportunity to listen to campaign coverage, dominated by cable television, which is not available in many rural areas.

"So once again, rural Minnesota is disenfranchised," said Larson, who campaigned for her national Democratic Party position saying rural Minnesota needs a say in the party.