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Minnesota GOP delegates, many new to statewide politics, endorse 3 candidates

More than 2,000 delegates on Friday picked endorsements for attorney general, secretary of state and auditor. They'll take up the governor's endorsement Saturday morning.

Minnesota State Republican Convention
Thousands attend the Minnesota State Republican Convention Friday, May 13, 2022, at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minnesota.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER, Minn. — The Mayo Civic Center was not just packed, but full of faces new to statewide politics Friday, May 13, as more than 2,000 delegates convened for the Minnesota Republican Party's state endorsement convention. More than half said they were attending for the first time, according to a GOP poll.

As the GOP base gets fired up about issues such as masking, COVID-19 lockdown orders, and concerns about the way schools teach about subjects like race, sexuality and history, this year's convention saw a boost of interest from newcomers, veteran delegates said.

“People are hungry to get involved with this in a way I’ve never seen,” said Benton County Republican Party Chair Dan Johnson, who has been a delegate to multiple conventions.

A GOP poll taken at the beginning of the convention found that nearly 56% of the delegates were attending for the first time. The beginning of the convention was delayed by about an hour and a half as organizers struggled to register attendees on schedule.

But even with hurdles posed by registration delays and controversy over the digital voting system, delegates managed to endorse candidates for attorney general, secretary of state and state auditor by Friday evening. Convention organizers said there was a chance they would hold the first round of voting for governor on Friday night, as electronic voting sped up the convention process considerably. They ultimately voted to adjourn and pick up the governor's endorsement 9 a.m. Saturday.

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Digital voting

Delegates to the Minnesota Republican Party’s state convention voted electronically after a controversy over the voting system threatened to slow the party's endorsement process.

Ahead of the convention, some campaigns asserted paper ballots would ensure greater integrity in the voting process than an electronic ballot voting system. Minnesota Republican Party Chairman David Hann said the claims were a ploy to disrupt the convention.

“They’re doing so because they know it’ll make it likely impossible to endorse a candidate,” Hann told delegates Friday as they took up the issue for debate on the floor of the convention.

Some delegates in favor of paper ballots said it would be hypocritical of Republicans to use electronic voting as many candidates are skeptical of electronic voting and campaigning on promises to ensure “election integrity."

Minnesota State Republican Convention
Convention co-chair Sen. David J. Osmek speaks at the Minnesota State Republican Convention on Friday, May 13, 2022, at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minnesota.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

Ultimately the convention overwhelmingly backed electronic voting in a standing vote on the convention floor.

Besides the secretary of state and auditor endorsements, delegates voted on party endorsements for attorney general. They're set to select from six candidates for governor on Saturday. It's likely the delegates will have to vote multiple times to reach the 60% support threshold for an endorsement.

Image from iOS.jpg
Delegates on Friday morning, May 13, 2022, file into the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minnesota, as long lines delayed the opening of the Minnesota Republican Party’s state convention.
Alex Derosier / Forum News Service

The candidates

Political newcomer Jim Schultz won the Minnesota Republican Party endorsement for attorney general Friday night, besting four other candidates vying for delegates’ support.

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Conservative activist Kim Crockett took the secretary of state endorsement after her only competitor, Kelly Jahner-Byrne, conceded in the race. Crockett said she would commit to preserving “election integrity.” She will face DFL incumbent Steve Simon in November.

The Minnesota Republican Party endorsed Ryan Wilson for auditor. Wilson, who is the only Republican candidate running for that office, won his party’s endorsement by acclamation from delegates. He will run against DFL auditor Julie Blaha in the November general election.

Candidates vying for the GOP governor endorsement in 2022 include former Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, Scott Jensen, a family practice physician and former senator who opposes vaccine and mask mandates, and Kendall Qualls, a businessman running as a political outsider.

Other candidates include former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy, and Neil Shah, a physician who opposes COVID-19 vaccination mandates. State Sen. Michelle Benson withdrew from the race at the end of April.

Republican candidates for governor have pledged to honor their party’s endorsement. That means the candidate who gets the most votes from delegates would be the party's candidate on the ballot in the primary election Aug. 9. The winner of the primary would run against incumbent Democratic-Farmer-Labor Gov. Tim Walz in November.

Affiliate groups

On Thursday the state central committee for the Republican party failed to vote on recertifying GOP-affiliate groups, putting their status of being able to participate as delegates at the convention in jeopardy. Those affiliates include groups such as the Log Cabin Republicans, an LGBT Republican group, and the Young Republicans.

Many delegates with GOP-affiliate groups had already traveled to the convention and had planned to participate before the state party effectively removed their affiliate status. Ultimately delegates voted to allow the affiliate groups to participate in the endorsement process.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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