Having attended more DFL conventions than was good for its mental health, Off Beat watched in amazement on Sunday as 140 Hennepin County delegates wrapped up an entire endorsement in a mere three and a half hours. It took only two ballots to select St. Louis Park mayor Gail Dorfman as the official candidate for the county board seat Mark Andrew is giving up midterm; delegates, many of whom had complained about the party's insensitivity in scheduling the gathering to coincide with a Vikings playoff game, were able to head out by halftime. But no DFL event would be complete without at least one intraparty split; and so, two of Sunday's losing candidates--Grant Harrell and Chuck O'Connor, each of whom attracted exactly one vote on the first ballot--vowed to file for office anyway, guaranteeing a March 16 primary before the special election March 30. O'Connor, at least, should make an impression with voters on appearance alone: He roamed the convention wearing a Vikings baseball hat, a Jesse Ventura sweatshirt, and outsize, lanternlike earrings that he explained were miniaturized versions of the devices he believes should be used to demolish the downtown Minneapolis garbage incinerator. In his speech, the 59-year-old candidate noted that he'd been homeless as recently as a year ago and exhorted delegates to elect to the board a recipient of county social services. Asked about his ability to match the formidable fundraising clout of his Republican foe, TCF Financial Corp.'s Peter Bell, O'Connor pled poverty ("This candidate doesn't have a dime") but promised he would offer a stark contrast to the banker by wearing his homemade fashion accessories for the duration of the campaign.
How Thune We Forget
St. Paul is no stranger to political conversions, so perhaps Off Beat shouldn't have been surprised last week when Mayor Norm Coleman appointed Dave Thune to head the city's Housing Information Office. Sure, as president of the City Council from 1994 to 1997 Thune had been Coleman's most vocal critic inside City Hall; in January 1997 he'd even announced a short-lived bid to replace the mayor, attacking his "Barnum-and-Bailey" approach to leadership. "Our current mayor, while socializing with the wealthy and spending most of his time seeking higher office, has not held his responsibilities in the covenant," Thune riffed at the time. Reached by Off Beat on Monday, Thune jokingly denied all past Coleman-trashing. "I voted for [Republican former U.S. Sen.] Dave Durenberger, too," he chuckled, smoothly adding that "working with Norm is a lot more fun that working against him."
Were We Nuts?
In politics, as in journalism, timing is everything. Just three days after City Pages' cover story chronicling Sen. Paul Wellstone's exploratory presidential bid ("Is He Nuts?" 1/6), Wellstone announced that he was chucking the campaign owing to chronic back problems. In the end, it was Wellstone's doctors who suggested he'd be crazy to undertake the grueling demands of a national campaign. As he spoke to a conference room jammed with longtime allies Saturday at the State Office Building in St. Paul--"You didn't have to come out in the cold like this," he apologized--it was clear the senator had wrestled with the decision to abandon the race. "I'm not gonna be dishonest," he said. "Yeah, I'm disappointed. I've been putting this off and putting this off. I've been up at 2 a.m. every morning thinking about it." Ultimately, he concluded, he realized that his body would vote against him in 2000: "I thought that I could manage it, but I don't think I can."
Nelson 1, Spielberg 0
Off Beat is proud to announce that the Midwest membership of the National Society of Film Critics has swelled to four: In addition to Roger Ebert, the Chicago Reader's Jonathan Rosenbaum, and the Chicago Tribune's Michael Wilmington, the illustrious group now counts among its members City Pages film critic Rob Nelson. January 3 marked Nelson's first NSFC meeting; the critics, gathered at New York's Algonquin Hotel for their 33rd annual awards confab, battled for the better part of a day over whether to bestow the Best Picture nod on Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan or Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight. The anti-Spielberg faction--Nelson, need we say it, among them--prevailed.
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