- Associated Press - Saturday, May 21, 2016

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota Republican Party leaders are calling for unity behind presumed presidential nominee Donald Trump as GOP faithful gather at their state convention this weekend.

Former Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman Ron Carey wore a “Defeat Hillary, vote Trump” sticker to promote unity.

“The voters have spoken around the country and now it’s time to unite because if we don’t we are going to have President Hillary Clinton, and that is something that I hope all Minnesota Republicans can agree upon would be a very disastrous course for this country,” Carey said at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

Signs, hats and T-shirts supporting Trump dotted the convention floor. Supporter Scott Gregory handed out Trump campaign materials in a hospitality room, along with some freebees, including lip balm, candy bars and chips.

Not everyone was aboard the Trump train.

In party meetings Friday ahead of the convention, a resolution reaffirming the right of party members to “focus efforts on races of their own choosing” failed on a voice vote. The majority of members of the Minnesota GOP’s governing body, the State Central Committee, voted against the measure indirectly aimed at Trump.

There are no statewide races on the ballot in 2016, so the main order of business at the state convention was to round out the slate of delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July.

“This is kind of the cream of the crop of what we do in politics,” said Ali Boettcher, spokeswoman for congressional candidate Stewart Mills, who is taking on two-time incumbent Rick Nolan, a Democrat from Crosby, in the 8th District. “We have a lot of great activists across the state,” Boettcher told WDIO-TV Saturday at the convention center.

The congressional race was getting plenty of the party’s attention.

“Never has there been a year in recent memory where Republicans had a better chance up in the 8th Congressional District with Stewart Mills running against Rick Nolan,” said Keith Downey, Minnesota GOP chairman. “We think this is a great venue for us to get our message of jobs and opportunity and really get on the growth for the people of the 8th Congressional District.”

The district covers northeastern Minnesota, including Duluth.

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