Republicans face off for 1st District endorsement

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Sen. Dick Day
State Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna, is skipping the Republican Party's endorsing convention Saturday. He'll challenge the endorsee in September's primary election.
MPR Photo/Laura McCallum

Originally, there were three candidates vying for the Republican endorsement in the First District. And they had all vowed to drop out if the 250 or so delegates at Saturday's convention picked someone else.

Then one of the candidates, State Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna, announced he was skipping the endorsement. Instead, he'll challenge the endorsed candidate at the primary election in September.

Day said he'd decided the endorsement process was "kind of dumb." "I'm actually spending all Saturday morning talking to four people," he said. "And not only that, in all honesty, a lot of them -- I'm trying to tell them who Dick Day is and they're supposed to be involved in politics and they don't know me. In some ways, it hurt my feelings!"

Day also admits he decided to go straight to the primary because he wasn't sure he'd win the endorsement. So those delegates now have to choose between physician Brian Davis and three-term state Rep. Randy Demmer, R-Hayfield.

"I fit the district perfectly," Demmer said. "As a lifetime resident, as somebody who has been in agriculture, as a farmer, grown up in that industry, and also as a small-town business person, and an activist in my community. I've got the right fit for the district. "

Demmer and Davis are pretty close on the issues.

"He might be a tick more conservative than I am," Demmer said.

But they're both conservative on issues like abortion, taxes, gay marriage and the war in Iraq.

There are some differences, though. Davis wants to abolish the federal No Child Left Behind education law. Demmer says the law is doing some good. And Demmer supports government programs to encourage alternative energy production, while Davis is against those programs.

Brian Davis has never run for office before. He is a cancer doctor at the Mayo clinic, and he has also studied engineering.

"First of all, I'm not a career politician," Davis said, explaining the case he makes to delegates. "And I do have a background in health care and energy. These are very important issues that are facing our nation and also this district. In addition, in this campaign I've raised more money than any of the other candidates these last two quarters, which shows I have strong support."

As of the end of last year, Davis had raised $160,000. About $50,000 of that came out of his own pocket. Demmer is trailing Davis in individual contributions, but he also took out a six-figure loan to give his campaign a boost. Dick Day has raised more money than either of them.

They all lag far behind the Democrat they hope to unseat. Congressman Tim Walz has already raked in more than $1.2 million.