Rochester, Minn. — Inspired by a whiff of optimism not felt in years, Minnesota Republican loyalists rallied Friday evening to endorse candidates for a statewide race the party has not won in more than a decade.
As the evening approached, some 2,200 convention delegates had backed a candidate for attorney general for the first time after backing a staunchly conservative candidate for secretary of state.
The featured event – Support for the Governor – will begin Saturday morning.
Kim Crockett, an advocate for conservative causes, won support for the secretary of state after delivering a message that promises a highly partisan fight with electoral conspiracy theories playing a major role in November’s general election.
Jim Schultz, an attorney who has never run for elected office, won a dramatic endorsement battle for attorney general over 2018 GOP nominee Doug Wardlow. Despite this, a Republican primary appeared inevitable, as the third candidate, former state lawmaker Dennis Smith, refused to attend the convention in favor of advancing directly to the August 9 primaries.
The mood and events inside the Rochester Mayo Civic Center showed a tension for the direction of the party, but it also comes at a moment of heartfelt optimism for Republicans, who see the prospect of taking control of the Minnesota government for the first time in decades if they The November elections win big.
“For the first time since the mid-1960s, Republicans are on the verge of controlling the legislative and executive branches of the state of Minnesota,” Republican Party of Minnesota President David Hahn said in a speech shortly after the convention’s late order . After the logistics delay in the morning.
The same headwinds facing Democrats – high inflation, fears of violent crime and despair over the pandemic – are seen by many Republicans as tailwinds for their candidates.
Republicans currently control the state Senate, but Democrats control the House and each hold elected office statewide. All those offices – and every seat in the Legislature – will be on the ballot on November 8.
The battle for approval is headlined by a whole field of candidates for governor, including physician and former state Sen. Scott Jensen, state Sen. Paul Gazelka, businessman Kendall Qualls, dermatologist Dr. Neil Shah, former Hennepin County. Sheriff Rich Stanek and Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy.
Party support has no legal significance; Any candidate may decide to appear on the ballot for the August 9 primary.
Schultz Attorney General
Schultz earned support after returning three ballots to defeat 2018 candidate Doug Wardlow during the Republican Party of Minnesota’s state convention in Rochester.
The current Minnesota Attorney General, Keith Ellison, a Democrat, was elected in 2018 and is seeking re-election. Ellison is also expected to have the support of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party at his convention in Rochester next week.
“The fight against Keith Ellison starts tomorrow,” Schultz called Ellison “radical” as he accepted the nomination.
Despite support, a Republican primary appeared inevitable, as the third candidate, former state lawmaker Dennis Smith, refused to attend the convention in favor of advancing directly to the August 9 primaries. Wardlow did not endorse Schultz in his concession speech; A spokesman said he would not run in the primary.
Had Wardlow won support, it would have likely led to a rematch between him and Ellison in the November general election, which squared off in 2018. Ellison won that race by the narrowest margin of any Democrat — a point Wardlow underlined as he fought for delegates on Friday. ,
While he is a first-time candidate, a 35-year-old Minnesota native and lawyer who earned a law degree from Harvard, he has gained respect in party worker circles for his efforts to organize the party and devote time to his own campaign. Was.
In the first ballot – featuring four candidates – Wardlow took the lead with 42 percent of the vote, about 34 percent of Schultz’s vote. Retired Judge Tad Judd had nearly 20 percent of the vote, making him a potential kingmaker. After Schultz is fielded on the second ballot, Judd announces that he is endorsing Schultz.
On the third ballot, Schultz was within a few percentage points of the 60 percent needed to garner support. Before the fourth ballot, Wardlow accepted.
The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party described Schultz as “an unqualified hedge fund lawyer” in a statement.
Crockett Secretary of State
The victory of Crockett’s endorsement laid the groundwork for a highly partisan Republican campaign with an overabundance of electoral lies.
The office oversees elections.
Crockett earned support after besting businessman Kelly Jahner-Byrne, after taking an insurmountable lead in the first ballot.
The current Secretary of State, Steve Simon, a Democrat, was elected in 2014 and is seeking re-election. Simon is expected to get the support of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party at his convention next week.
Crockett, a lawyer who has served as an advocate for conservative causes, including as general counsel for the Center for the American Experiment, has so far provided the convention’s most partisan rhetoric.
On Friday, a video for his campaign that was played out to the convention crowd showed financier George Soros as a puppet master for election figures, including Simon. Such imagery based on conspiracy theories has been widely criticized, as the anti-Semitic trope of Jews controlling vast swaths of society.
Crockett painted November’s general election in colors commemorating the American Civil War. “Can we unite as the party of Lincoln to defeat the party of slavery and tyranny?” She said the latter, referring to the Democratic Party.
As far as voting goes, Crockett echoed Simon’s common Republican criticism: that he used the public health crisis of COVID to change election laws in violation of the state constitution. Such changes, which loosened voting rules to make absentee voting easier, have been upheld by courts.
On Friday, Crockett never outright reiterated the false and baseless claims that none of the 2020 election results were valid, but left guessing.
“Simon used COVID as a cover for how we vote and then how rolls are counted,” she said later: “We need to return to the civic traditions that unite us, such as individual Voting effectively and rejecting unsecured chaotic absentee voting systems and vulnerable wireless devices connected to the Internet.
A native of South St. Paul and 2001 Mrs. Minnesota, Jahner-Byrne began her political career as campaign manager for the last successful Republican Secretary of State, Mary Kifmeyer, who is now a state senator. In her speech seeking support in front of about 2,200 delegates, Jahner-Byrne said she wanted to focus on the “professional services side” of the office, which oversees professional and business licensing for the state. However, she also said of the 2020 election: “We can never repeat wrongdoing.”
In a statement, DFL President Ken Martin called Crockett “an election conspiracy theorist who has tried to restrict early voting, roll back vote-by-mail, and make it harder for older Minnesotans and people in Greater Minnesota to cast their ballots.” promised.”
Delegates also endorsed Ryan Wilson for State Auditor.
paper ballot push fail
Earlier in the day, the arduous, and perhaps messy, process of choosing which candidates to support, shedding light on a party whose influence of President Donald Trump has combined both energy, but on institutions and customs. have also been suspected.
To that end, the convention featured a preliminary debate about voting by electronic means – as both sides have attempted to do for several recent conventions – or paper ballots. The push for paper ballots stemmed from the belief that electronic voting could not be trusted – an idea stemming from Trump’s false claims that he had won the 2020 election but that it was somehow stolen from him. Courts, journalists and election officials and legislatures across the country have rejected the idea.
Those opposed to paper ballots argued that the electronic method could be relied upon, and that the process of counting ballots would take so long that it would not be possible to complete endorsements before 6 p.m. Saturday, the scheduled closing of the convention.
Attempts to go to the paper ballot failed miserably.
At the party’s 2018 convention in Duluth, delegates were forced to cast some votes via paper ballot after an electronic system crashed.
Han urged party unity in his inaugural address, saying, “The only thing that presents an obstacle for us is this.” “Do we have the will to rise above disagreements with each other?”
Earlier on Friday, lone candidate Ryan Wilson won support for the state auditor to challenge incumbent Julie Blaha, a Democrat.