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Jim Klobuchar: GOP owned by corporations

Jim Klobuchar, who was a Star Tribune columnist for more than 30 years, gave an impassioned speech at the Becker County DFL Convention Tuesday on behalf of his daughter, U.S. Senate candidate Amy Klobuchar.

As Minnesota residents and U.S., citizens, DFL activists are understandably angry about the direction of the country, he told about 50 people who attended the convention at the Minnesota community and Technical College in Detroit Lakes.

"You are appalled by what has happened in the Capitol of your country," he said. "The war is not the biggest issue in this campaign -- the biggest issue is the sale of the American government to corporate America. These people have corrupted the American government. They have corrupted (our) democracy."

Ethics that used to guide leaders in Washington no longer apply, he said.

"This is a government that is secretive, that breaks the law, that has bag men for the lobbyists on K Street." The pharmaceutical industry and insider companies like Halliburton "now run the American government," he said. "They are stealing from your children and grandchildren by this egregious tax cut system that is creating an aristocracy in America -- stealing college opportunities, stealing job opportunities, and that's what this election is all about."

If elected, Klobuchar will aim for a seat on the Senate agriculture committee, because farming is the most important business in Minnesota, he said.

As Hennepin County Attorney, Klobuchar has earned a reputation for "being as tough as the law allows on white collar crime," her father said, and she will bring that desire for justice and desire to work for the people of Minnesota to the Senate, he said.

Minnesota Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, told the group he has been in politics for more than 30 years and believes this will be a watershed year for the Democrats.

"It's going to be a great election year for us," he said. Republicans are going to lose from the top to the bottom (of the ticket). I think you're going to see one of the biggest landslides you've seen in quite a long time."

Langseth, who chairs the Senate Bonding Committee, said he expects the bonding bill to be approved relatively easily this session.

"A couple of years ago the Republicans shut us down -- then they lost 13 seats in the House -- they aren't going to do that again," he said. "We should have a good bonding year, and it should be good for northwest Minnesota."

Minnesota Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said Langseth has been quite effective in his leadership of the bonding committee.

"Keith is way too humble," he said. "We wouldn't be getting the projects if it weren't for Keith Langseth -- he takes good care of this area."

Gov. Tim Pawlenty's policies are not geared toward mainstream rural Minnesota, Marquart said, pointing to cuts in local government aid to the tune of $250 for every resident in Detroit Lakes.

Minnesotans care most about property tax relief, health care and education. If the DFL focuses on those issues, the party's candidates will win, he said.

DFLers should not be afraid to take a stand on principle and shake things up a bit, said Minnesota Rep. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley.

"We need to agitate a little bit," he said. "We need to make clear the differences between our two parties ... they are about special privileges and opportunity only to a few privileged people, we are the ones who want to make sure everybody has the opportunity to go to college, that everyone has access to health care and that no rural communities are left behind economically."

Jerry Nagel of Lake Park Township spoke on behalf of Mark Ritchie, who is running for Minnesota secretary of state.

Nagel said that people should care about the secretary of state, because that person "controls the election machinery in Minnesota."

Republican Mary Kiffmeyer, he charged, "is using it in a most harmful and vicious way to discourage new voters and young voters, in particular."

A representative spoke on behalf of State Sen. Becky Lourey's campaign for governor, and letters were read from other candidates.

Sharon Josephson, who heads U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson's office in Detroit Lakes, brought greetings from Peterson and noted he strongly favors a balanced budget and a domestic energy policy for this country.

"This is the first time that anyone from our area has been ranking member or chairman of the House Agriculture Committee," she said to applause.

At the county convention, which followed the caucuses Tuesday evening, Cyndi Anderson was elected chair, Dave Erickson was elected associate chair, Mary Hanson was elected secretary, Virgil Gunnarson treasurer and Erma Vizenor affirmative action officer.

Anderson thanked Ted Fiskevold of Detroit Lakes for his work as an officer of the county DFL the past several years.

Here are the delegates elected Tuesday: "Super delegates" are Erma Vizenor, White Earth Tribal Chairwoman, and Ted Fiskevold, 7th Congressional District DFL associate chair.

Delegates are Cyndi Anderson, Gwenia Fiskevold, Sarah Alexander, Larry Buboltz, John Mehlnoff and Jerry Nagle.

In a straw poll, Amy Klobuchar easily won, with 54 votes to 6 for Ford Bell and 4 undecided.

For governor, Attorney General Mike Hatch won, scoring 41 votes to 12 for State Rep. Becky Lourey, 7 for Steve Kelley, 2 for Kelly Doran, and 2 undecided.

Becker County Republicans will hold their county convention April 8 in Detroit Lakes.