ROSEVILLE (AP) -- Fourth District Republicans endorsed state Sen. Linda Runbeck to fill the seat of retiring DFL Congressman Bruce Vento.
The other candidates were former state Rep. Dennis Newinski, Concordia University Dean Bob DeWerff, 3M Co. employee Bernie Baumann and Maplewood Mayor Bob Cardinal.
Runbeck, R-Circle Pines, has raised more money than the other four GOP candidates combined, according to campaign finance reports released recently.
''I'm known to be a proven and effective fund-raiser,'' Runbeck told the hundreds of delegates gathered in the Roseville High School auditorium Saturday, adding that the it likely would cost at least $1 million to win the seat.
She also has served in the state Legislature with some of the DFL candidates for many years and knows their voting records.
''I can stand toe-to-toe with them,'' she said.
Newinski touted his 4th District name recognition from running against Vento several times.
''This is not the year for a newcomer,'' he said, adding that he has lived in the district for about 30 years.
Runbeck currently doesn't live in the congressional district, although it overlaps part of her legislative district. She said she would move if she were elected.
''I think it's the respectful thing to do,'' she said after she won the endorsement.
On the first ballot, Runbeck received 123 votes to Newinski's 93 of the 229 votes cast. To win the endorsement, a candidate needed 138 votes, or 60 percent of the delegates.
The other three candidates, who had a combined 13 votes on the first ballot, dropped out after the second ballot.
Runbeck was named the endorsee on a 140-89 vote on the third ballot.
GOP leaders hope changing demographics in the district, which now encompasses more suburban residents, might give a Republican candidate a better chance in the traditional DFL stronghold.
According to 1998 estimates by the Metropolitan Council, the population of 4th District suburbs have grown by 8.4 percent, while the city of St. Paul has shrunk by 1.3 percent.
Suburban dwellers now make up 54 percent of the district's 584,000 residents.
Tony Sutton, executive director of the state party, said the GOP candidate will have another advantage: All of the hopefuls had agreed beforehand to abide by the convention's wishes.
That means that while the DFL will almost certainly have a primary to pick it's candidate, the GOP can throw its support behind one candidate from Saturday through November.
Former 4th District Chairman Fred Meyer of St. Paul said Runbeck would need to capture more than the suburbs.
''You can't ignore St. Paul,'' he said, adding that any candidate would need at least 40 percent of the vote in the city to win in November.
Runbeck agreed, saying it would likely be where she spent the most time campaigning.
''The pundits and the Democrats will say we can't win the 4th District because we can't take the inner city,'' she said. ''I want to give them notice that we can and we will.''
Vento, who has held the seat since 1976, announced earlier that he would retire at the end of this term.
The decision came shortly after he was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer most commonly associated with exposure to asbestos. Surgeons at the Mayo Clinic recently removed one of his lungs.
Vento's retirement gives Republicans the chance to retake a district they haven't held since 1948 at a time when control of the House is expected to be competitive.
Melvin J. Maas in 1926 became the last Republican to win a contest between two nonincumbents for the seat, which he held until 1945. The only other Republican to represent the district since was Edward Devitt, who served from 1947 to 1949.
Seven DFLers have announced their candidacy for the seat. They are: St. Paul City Council member Chris Coleman, South St. Paul Mayor Kathleen Gaylord, state Rep. Mary Jo McGuire of Falcon Heights, state Rep. Betty McCollum of North St. Paul, state Sen. Steve Novak of New Brighton, labor leader Mary Rosenthal of St. Paul and Ramsey County Board member Rafael Ortega.
Fourth District DFLers hold their endorsing convention next weekend.
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