MANKATO — In a year and a week, St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg hopes to receive roughly one and a half million votes — and at least one more than Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken in the 2014 general election.
But on Wednesday night, Dahlberg was content to try to win over a handful of Mankato-area Republican activists in the conference room at the Happy Chef.
“How do you eat an elephant? It’s one bite at a time,” the Duluth attorney said.
While the elephant-consumption analogy was about eliminating the nation’s $17 trillion debt, which Dahlberg said would be his top priority, he also concedes he has a big task in front of him to win the Republican endorsement to challenge Franken. The GOP is fresh off a blow-out loss in the 2012 Senate race after Republican activists endorsed a little-known, underfinanced freshman lawmaker against Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
The 25-year Army Reserve veteran, though, said he’s treating the race like a 15-mile ruck march, putting his head down and taking it a step at a time.
“We’re far out in the race,” said Dahlberg, who is facing, among others, long-time state Sen. Julianne Ortman of Chanhassen and businessman Mike McFadden of Sunfish Lake for the chance to take on Franken. This month, Ortman won a non-binding straw poll at the off-year Republican state convention and McFadden revealed he already has $1.2 million on hand for his campaign, more than state Rep. Kurt Bills raised in his entire campaign against Klobuchar.
But Dahlberg said he offers Republicans, who are in the midst of a rough losing streak in statewide elections, a different kind of candidate. He’s a Republican who won union endorsements in his second county board victory in 2010 and won election in a city where Barack Obama was picking up nearly 70 percent of the vote.