Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Joe Repya, the IP race for guv, and some weird background

Joe Repya, the IP race for guv, and some weird background
By Eric Black

A few days behind on this, but I need to bring Joe Repya into the race for the Independence Party nomination for guv.

Repya grew up in a Democratic household, became a Republican over the way Vietnam vets were  treated by anti-war protesters. He has never run for public office before, although he did run for chairman of the Minnesota GOP, an experience that seemed to launch his alienation from the party.

I’ve known Repya, who is a very nice guy, since he first made news as the creator of the “Liberate Iraq/Support Our Troops” lawn signs during the run-up to the Iraq war. More than 30,000 of those signs were eventually distributed and displayed, mostly on the lawns of Minnesotans.

Repya was a hawk, but no chickenhawk. An Army vet, he later put his aged body where his mouth was by volunteering to return to active duty and serving in Iraq. That’s the third war for Repya, who also fought in Vietnam and in the Kuwait war. He’s retired from active military again, holding the rank of lieutenant colonel. He’s 63 now and lives in Eagan.

Article continues after advertisement

He was a spokesman for the 2004 Bush reelection campaign on military issues and recruited support from veterans for Fred Thompson’s 2008 presidential bid. With that introduction, I took Repya for a classic national security Republican, and I think he was.

In 2007, Repya ran for MNGOP chair against incumbent Ron Carey. He lost and left complaining that the party was (as he put it to me this week) “dysfunctional, poorly led, dominated by lobbyists and big bankers who dictate the agenda and the candidates.” MNGOP has been caught in recent years on serious financial irregularities and Repya ended up believing that the party is run by corrupt insiders who try to silence all criticism (although he adds that he has no proof of corrupt practices and any such references should include the word “alleged”).

Last June, Repya announced, very publicly in a Pioneer Press op-ed, that he was no longer a Republican and repeated some of his unflattering characterizations (“In my opinion, the new party leaders are rabid, power-hungry ideologues.”) Then things really got weird.

Nathan Hansen, who was and is deputy chair of the Fourth Congressional District Repubs, published a comment in the thread under Repya’s op-ed calling him a Trotskyite Communist. Hansen, who identified himself as an anti-war Republican, taunted Repya that  “Your days of endless illegal wars and military industrial complex domination of our party are over. Obama is ramping up his War in Afghanistan and continues to illegally bomb Pakistan. Perhaps you can join him to satiate your bloodlust.”

Didn’t see that one coming, did you?

Repya took offense. He notes that despite this outburst, Hansen was appointed to serve as chair of the Constitution Committee at the 2009 Republican state convention. Party chair Tony Sutton confirms that this is so, but notes that Hansen apologized for his statements, in a letter to Sutton and on the floor of the convention, and expressed his respect and support for U.S. troops and veterans. Sutton said he was satisfied with the apology. I asked Sutton if Hansen had ever apologized to Repya. He said he didn’t know. Repya says no.

You could surmise that it was the insult from Hansen that finally motivated Repya’s decision to join the Independence Party, but it seems likely Repya was already planning such a move when he wrote, in the June op-ed:

“Somewhere is a political party that is inclusive and wanting of seasoned political grass-roots talent. Somewhere there is a political party that will stand on principle, not radical partisanship. Somewhere there is a political party that isn’t bought and paid for by large financial donors or special interests. There must be a party in need of fiscally conservative, principled individuals who will work for the people of Minnesota and not for the blind political ambition of a few. I encourage like-minded Republican voters to join me. I’m sure we’ll find that new home.”

Now, Repya has located his new home and is running full-time for the IP endorsement, which will be decided at the IP convention May8-9. (The IP, by the way, permits online participation in precinct caucuses.) Repya’s best-known competitor is Tom Horner but at least three other candidates – Rob Hahn, Rahn Workcuff, and John Uldrich (not to be confused with his son, Jack Uldrich, who is the IP chair). Repya is not pledged to abide by the endorsement, nor is Horner. Repya said he would be glad to offer Horner the Lt. Gov. spot on his ticket. Horner welcomed Repya to the race.

Article continues after advertisement

Repya said his priorities as governor would be to balance the budget, followed by job creation and education. He said Repubs and Dems are both to blame for the budget mess and that his approach would be to start with cuts, but he will not take a no-new-taxes pledge. He said he is working with a group of retired legislators from both parties and would have his proposal to balance the budget ready right after the May convention.

Repya pledges to serve just one term and says he’s the only candidate for guv who has done so. That way, Minnesotans will know that he is not sucking up to special interests to get their financial support for a reelection bid.

Another unusual idea from Repya is that the state and the Vikings should work out financing for a new stadium in exchange for which the state will end up owning 51 percent of the Vikings, so Viking fans will never again have to worry about the team leaving the state.

Repya is a social conservative, who is pro-life on abortion and believes that marriage should be reserved for man-woman couples.