An influx of neophyte delegates to the Minnesota State Republican Convention--most of them politically conservative and religious fundamentalists--provided the victory margin early this morning for Lt. Gov. Lou Wangberg, who was seeking endorsement as the party's candidate for governor.
Wangberg, 41, a former Bemidji school superintendent, beat Paul Overgaard, a 52-year-old Albert Lea insurance broker who appealed to the party's moderate wing. The vote on the seventh and final ballot was 1,356 to 568 in favor of Wangberg.
Three other candidates had dropped out by the crucial fifth ballot, which ended with Overgaard slightly in the lead. State Rep. Glen Sherwood, a 47-year-old fundamentalist lay preacher from Pine River who ran as the champion of "godly principles" held the balance of power. The Sherwood delegates flocked to Wangberg after Sherwood dropped out with the fervent injunction that the convention pick a gubernatorial candidate in his own "strong pro-family, pro-life" image. The essence of that image is absolute opposition to abortion.
Overgaard, a former legislator with support in the business community, complained to reporters about a Wangberg-Sherwood deal--which Wangberg denied. Overgaard also complained that he was a victim of a campaign of "misrepresentation" about his position on abortion. He said it had been wrongly alleged that he had supported the 1973 Supreme Court abortion decision.
Wangberg conceded in a separate interview that abortion had been an important issue to the delegates. On the podium, however, he stressed his dedication to conservative economics. He came to the convention with the personal endorsement of retiring Gov. Al Quie, who last January quit his quest for a second term after a series of disastrous budget shortfalls.
Wangberg's next hurdle is the Sept. 14 primary, when he will face Wheelock Whitney, a wealthy moderate who bypassed the endorsement convention.
Sherwood, who has been aided by Citizens Alert For Liberty and Morality, a conservative church group that encourages fundamentalists to get into politics, told the convention he was convinced he had changed Minnesota's "political spectrum," adding, "The issues I feel strongly about will not be swept under the rug by any candidate in the future."
Among those issues, some of which were written into the party platform, are restoration of capital punishment which was abolished in Minnesota in 1911, repeal of the state's handgun control law, opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment, mandating the teaching of creationism along with evolution, school prayers, tough enforcement of laws against fornication and sodomy, a crackdown on drugs, pornography, and "the pimps and johns who are destroying the lives of young girls."