Approximately 3,300 delegates and alternates are eligible to attend the DFL city convention May 14, and one of the big questions is: How many will actually show up?
In the hotly contested 2001 DFL city convention, only 981 delegates attended, according to Tim Bonham, the DFL city party treasurer.
In 2001, as in previous city conventions, the delegate pool was chosen the previous year during the presidential endorsement process. Those delegates' interest in city politics may have varied. This year, for the first time, the DFL held a city-specific round of city precinct caucuses in March, giving local candidates a chance to organize their support.
Bonham predicts this year's turnout will be similar to 2001; however, some of his party colleagues believe the new process could result in 2,000-3,000 delegates turning out.
However many show up, a candidate needs 60 percent of their votes to get endorsed.
The stakes May 14 are higher for McLaughlin. He has pledged not to run against an endorsed candidate, a move that typically endears a candidate to the party faithful, who want the process honored. A Rybak endorsement means McLaughlin would bow out.
Rybak has not committed to abide by the endorsement. He said he has spent many nights talking to delegates and respects the process. Yet he also wants respect the hundreds of new politically active people, including students and new immigrants, who don't know the party system.
Both sides are making calls and courting delegates.
A key block is labor.
Kyle Makarios, political director of the Minneapolis Central Labor Union (MCLU), said he knew of 462 delegates with labor ties, or 14 percent of the delegate pool. Those numbers don't count retirees or city police and fire union members, he said.
Central Labor will not give its official AFL-CIO endorsement until after the city convention, but some of its member unions have. Jim Niland, political director of McLaughlin-backing AFSCME Council 5, said 140 - 150 union members are delegates.
Teachers also make up a significant block of labor delegates, Makarios said. Both McLaughlin and Rybak have hit youth and education themes.
Education is a safe mayoral issue. The Minneapolis School Board, not the city, runs the schools. As in many other arenas, the mayor has a bully pulpit rather than a policy-and-funding role.
McLaughlin has said he would "make education a top priority" and has criticized Rybak for not taking a more active role.
Rybak notes he chairs the Youth Coordinating Board and helped forge a children and youth agenda. (McLaughlin also is a Youth Coordinating Board member.) Rybak also has endorsements from a number of current and former School Board members, including former Board Chair Catherine Shreves and current Chair Joe Erickson.
Ward "weighting" also will affect the vote. A ward's total delegate slots are based on its Democratic Party votes from past elections. Also, wards with contested 2005 Council races tend to fill more of those slots than wards without real races.
Other factors will affect the outcome. The convention is the same day as fishing opener, which might lure away some delegates.