DFL endorses former dairy princess

Published 9:30 am Monday, April 26, 2010

Thousands of DFLers from across the state of Minnesota congregated in Duluth over the weekend with one goal in mind: picking Minnesota’s next governor.

After 13 hours and six ballots, Margaret Anderson Kelliher, speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives, was the last DFL gubernatorial candidate left standing. She received the DFL endorsement by acclamation after her chief rival, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, conceded and threw his support to Kelliher.

Kelliher received the most votes on all six ballots cast by delegates on Saturday, but Rybak and State Representative Paul Thissen stayed in the race late into the night.

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A pivotal point in the convention was when iron-range favorite State Representative Tom Rukavina conceded and gave a passionate oratory asking his supporters to help Kelliher secure the endorsement.

Growing up on a small dairy farm in Blue Earth County, Kelliher helped her four older brothers and father with the day-to-day activities of running a small farm operation. In her youth, she was a local dairy princess and the Minnesota State 4-H president.

After graduating from Gustavus Adolphus College, she went on to complete her Masters of Public Administration at Harvard University. In 1998, she was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives and has quickly risen to hold the state’s second-most powerful position. During her tenure, she coordinated efforts that lead to a DFL majority in the State House and built a bipartisan coalition to override Governor Pawlenty’s veto of the transportation bill in the wake of the I-35W bridge collapse.

Even though the DFL endorsement will provide momentum and countless recourses to Kelliher’s gubernatorial bid, she still has to face a crowded primary field, with two self-financed candidates, Former U.S. Senator Mark Dayton and Minnesota 2020 founder Matt Entenza.

The Minnesota GOP will select her Republican counterpart next week.

Kelliher made history on Saturday when she became the first woman endorsed for governor by a major political party in Minnesota. The once dairy princess-turned political powerhouse will have her opportunity to prove to Minnesotans that she has the vision and drive to handle the state’s highest office.