Tarryl Clark, the former state Senator from St. Cloud now seeking
the DFL nomination for Congress in the northern Minnesota 8th
District (to challenge first-term incumbent Repub Rep. Chip
Cravaack) surprised no one by announcing Thursday that she will no
longer seek the DFL endorsement in the race, will not abide by the
endorsement process and will go directly to the primary against the
Except she didn't quite say that because -- despite sending out
an 11-paragraph long email to supporters on the topic -- she never
mentioned the words "abide," "endorsement" nor "convention."
In an interview yesterday, Clark said that her decision had
nothing to do with the possibility that she might not win the
endorsement. In fact, she expressed confidence to me that if she had
stayed in the endorsement contest, she would have been endorsed.
To be blunt, this is simply not credible. I asked Clark if she
was aware of any case of a candidate who dropped out of an
endorsement contest even though they believed they were in position
to get endorsed. She replied: "I'm not focused on what other people
have done. I'm focused on the lives of the people in the 8th
On the night of the Feb. 7 precinct caucuses (the first step in
the selection of delegates to the congressional district convention
at which the endorsement would be awarded), a straw poll was taken.
It came out:
Former Congressman Rick Nolan: 1,546 votes.
Duluth City Council member Jeff Anderson: 1,035.
That's a really distant third for Clark in the endorsement
Understanding the code
Nolan has pledged to abide by the endorsement. Anderson said he
would abide if everyone in the race committed to abide, but Clark's
decision now means that Anderson will decide later whether he might
also run in a primary.
Clark signaled early on that she would not abide by saying that
she would abide as long as it was a fair process. Experienced
observers of the long-running Minnesota political game of who-will-
abide understood the code.
There is a slight extra awkwardness to the non-abidement (no,
that's not a word) of Clark, because in addition to her state Senate
term, and her unsuccessful 2010 race for Congress against Michele
Bachmann in 6th District, Clark also previously served as associate
chair of the DFL Party (2003-5). In that capacity, she toed the
party line on endorsements, which is that DFLers are supposed to go
through the endorsement and abide by it. She sought the endorsement,
pledged to abide by the endorsement and received it, in all of her
previous races. She benefitted from the usual delegate bias against
non-abiders in 2010 when she entered the race as the only abider
against two non-abiding candidates.
DFL Party Chair Ken Martin issued the obligatory press release
yesterday expressing "disappoint[ment] to hear that Tarryl Clark
will not be abiding by the DFL endorsement," which, Martin noted,
will "force a primary election" and "risks wasting valuable DFL
resources and drawing the focus away from the real goal of defeating
Chip Cravaack." (In such cases, the party usually helps the endorsee
defeat the challenger and the chair always rebukes the non-abider
for postponing the day when the party can unite against the