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Dispatch from the SD41 GOP picnic: the state of the party

Sizing up the gubernatorial candidates, praise for new party leadership and hope for 2014.

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The kids and I stopped by the SD41 picnic yesterday. It was interesting. A few things:

At least two gubernatorial candidates showed up. I saw Kurt Zellers, but we had to leave before he spoke, so I can’t tell you what he said. I’m not sure that Zellers is going to make much headway anyway. I did see Sen. Dave Thompson, however.

I suspect that the battle for the GOP nomination is going to come down to either Thompson or Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson. It’s a tough decision, because both Johnson and Thompson are potentially very good candidates. One thing that’s evident is that Thompson has better communication skills. As most people who follow Minnesota politics know, before he entered the arena Thompson spent a number of years as a radio show host on KSTP. I enjoyed his show because he did a good job of explaining conservative philosophy well, which I think is going to be important in this cycle. The version of a stump speech that Thompson gave at SD41 shows that he’s thought things through quite well and that he’ll be able to communicate his message quickly and clearly, which is the key to reaching potential voters, especially outstate.

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It’s a tough call, because Jeff Johnson is a good guy and has done a lot of good work as the voice of sanity on the Hennco board, but at this point I prefer Dave Thompson. I continue to regret that Thompson and Johnson are running for the same office; it’s too bad that one of the two candidates isn’t running against Al Franken instead, because I’m not particularly impressed with the candidates who are in that race.


State GOP Chair Keith Downey also stopped by the picnic to give an update on how things are going at the mothership. It’s not news that the MN GOP has been a train wreck for a number of years now, especially under the stewardship of Tony Sutton, who let a lot of things slide, including accounts payable. Downey’s immediate predecessor, Pat Shortridge, did what he could to patch things together in the last cycle, but 2012 turned out to be a disaster for the Republican Party in the state. Downey, who was formerly a state legislator himself, is a far better public face for the party than Sutton. Bills are getting paid now and the party is making some headway in fundraising, although it continues to be a tough environment.

I was encouraged by several things Downey said, especially concerning the overall messaging strategy the party will take into the next cycle. The DFL is very good at the demonization game and the key thing for GOP candidates in this cycle is to cut through the attacks and stay on the issues, because the DFL has a record it must defend in 2014. The GOP needs to make sure that the DFL is required to make that defense, rather than just chanting mantras and giving GOP candidates the Emanuel Goldstein treatment.


As for SD41, it’s early yet, but I remain convinced that we can have some success in 2014. The 41A side of the district is not easy territory, but a good candidate should have a chance to give incumbent Connie Bernardy a challenge. 41B, where I live, is a tougher nut to crack, because the district includes DFL redoubt Columbia Heights. We’ll be looking at these challenges more after the first of the year. 

This post was written by Mark Heuring and originally published on Mr. Dilettante’s Neighborhood.

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