First I’d like to say congratulations to Mike McFadden, Jeff Johnson, Dan ‘Doc’ Severson, Randy Gilbert and Scott Newman. All of them worked hard and earned the MNGOP endorsement for state-wide office. A congratulations are also in order for Chris Fields, our new MNGOP Deputy Chair and Heather Todd, our new Party Secretary. The Republican slate this year is particularly strong and the MNGOP definitely has the talent to capitalize on what will undoubtedly be a Republican year.
Now that the formalities are out of the way the biggest lesson from the 2014 Minnesota Republican Convention was how to lose well. The race for the US Senate endorsement saw the emergence of several very strong candidates from relative obscurity. Perhaps the biggest surprise was Phillip Parrish. His speech was inspiring and his position as an intelligence officer in the US Naval Reserve is impressive. Look to a bright political career with this one.
Perhaps the least surprising winner of the US Senate losers was Chris Dahlberg. Chris had been gaining activist support and was widely considered the dark horse for the US Senate endorsement leading up to the Convention, but his speech emphasizing conservative bona fides and electability was unusually convincing. He very nearly won the endorsement and was only stymied by a recess at 2am Friday night, setting up the McFadden victory the following morning. Expect to see him in future cycles.
The biggest loser from the Senate race has to be Julianne Ortman. She was expected to do well but was never really in contention. Her withdrawal speech was uninspiring and she did not endorse a remaining Senate candidate, as did the other Senate hopefuls that withdrew before her. After she withdrew her campaign manager, Andy Parrish, actually slapped another activist, Jeff Kolb, leading to much humorous mayhem on social media. It was an unfortunate end to a very serious campaign. Hopefully Senator Ortman will run again with a stronger campaign team in future cycles.
If the US Senate endorsement had surprises, the Governor’s race had some outright shocks. First the good stuff. Dave Thompson and his running mate Michelle Benson deserve a huge amount of respect for the way they ran their campaign and for the way they withdrew from the race. Dave’s withdrawal speech was more inspiring and inspired than any acceptance speech and I look forward to supporting both of them in future campaigns.
The big shock of the night came from the final speech from Marty Seifert. I say final and not withdrawal because Seifert did not withdraw but rather opted to ask his supporters to leave the convention. Due to convention rules if enough people leave the convention there is no ‘quorum’ and the convention cannot conduct business, like endorsing other candidates. This was a big surprise to many now former Siefert supporters. Thankfully this ploy to deny an endorsement did not succeed and the MNGOP can now rally behind its endorsed Governor candidate, Jeff Johnson.
In truth it may not matter. This election cycle is looking to be a test of the endorsement process’s very viability. By endorsing McFadden for Senate, the MNGOP opted to not go to primary with some other candidate (McFadden was going to primary regardless of whether or not he was endorsed). However in the Governor’s race there was always going to be a primary as both Scott Honour and Kurt Zellers committed to challenging the eventual MNGOP endorsee some time ago. One more candidate in the mix won’t make much of a difference.
One thing Siefert did do was unite the MNGOP behind its endorsed candidate for Governor, Jeff Johnson, in a way that would not otherwise have been possible. Many activists are angry and will work hard to ensure both that Jeff wins the primary and that Marty loses it. With real cash behind Honour and Zellers and a largely hostile MNGOP, Marty Seifert has turned what would have already been a mountain of a primary challenge into Mount Everest.