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For stepping back on the field, I tip my cap to Tom Emmer

MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday
Emmer has been the 800 pound gorilla in the 6th congressional district since his name was first mentioned as a candidate.

In early December of 2011, during the State Central Committee meeting of the Republican Party, I commented to reporters about Tom Emmer and his 2010 campaign for governor. In the hallway of the Sheraton Bloomington Hotel, I blasted away at the 2010 Republican nominee for governor for his stumbles on the campaign trail and the mistakes made by his staff and supporters.

At the time, I thought it was the right thing to do. In the meeting room behind me, the Republican Party of Minnesota was spinning out of control and rather than offering constructive criticisms or choosing not to add to the troubles  by piling on, I exercised my 1st Amendment Right to free speech and hammered Emmer. I had every right to speak up, but just because you have the right, doesn’t mean you have to use it.

Even after losing a close race for governor in 2010, followed up by a loss to be the Republican National Committeeman from Minnesota in April, Emmer was volunteering that cold December day for the Republican Party of Minnesota. The man who was almost governor, was humbly helping delegates and alternates register for the meeting I had just left. With a smile on his face, Emmer was likely helping some of the same activists that didn’t vote for him to be the Republican National Committeeman from Minnesota. Emmer was potentially helping some of his past supporters, who had called the headquarters of the Republican Party of Minnesota in the summer of 2010 to complain about his campaign.

I didn’t stay very long that morning. After offering my smart-ass comments to the media, I left, thinking I had done the right thing by speaking up. I was the brave one for throwing a verbal hand-grenade into the meeting room and then leaving before it blew-up. Even after being asked by the media about my comments, Emmer stayed and volunteered for an organization that had been less than kind to him in the previous months. He stayed and helped, even after the former deputy chair made unflattering statements about him.

Fast forward to May 29, 2013 and Congresswoman Michele Bachmman had just announced she would not be seeking re-election to Congress. I was receiving calls from the media asking about potential candidates. I hobbled around my house with my cane for a few minutes, looking at a map of the 6th Congressional District and thinking about which candidates would emerge. As fast as I could run the numbers, it became very clear to me that Tom Emmer would be the new 800 pound gorilla in the 6th Congressional District. I believed the race would shape up like the 3rd Congressional District did when Congressman Jim Ramstad announced his retirement. Everyone looked at running, but eventually, Representative Erik Paulsen became the Republican candidate and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008.

One by one, potential candidates that had expressed initial interest in running, took their names off the list as candidates in the 6th congressional district. On June 5, 2013, in downtown Delano and with a crowd of family and friends, Emmer announced his campaign for Congress.

As I predicted, Emmer has been the 800 pound gorilla in the 6th congressional district since his name was first mentioned as a candidate. His campaign has been well-organized and Emmer has been the type of candidate many hoped he would be in 2010. But life and politics don’t always intersect at the same time, and people need to understand that timing plays a critical role in the success of a candidate. It’s something that I’ve had to learn.

Politics has sometimes not been kind to Emmer and his family.  I frequently say “politics isn’t a tickle-contest.” But what  amazes me is the resilience of Emmer. He brushes off personal attacks and verbal-jabs better than most candidates I’ve seen. Emmer has taken enough abuse to last a lifetime and nobody would have faulted him for not running for Congress. But Emmer did the expected and brushed off the dirt and got back into the political arena. His campaign for Congress has raised the more money than of any of the other Republican candidates. I expect Emmer to continue building support and while there are always a few hurdles in politics, I believe he will be elected to Congress this November. Politically, the best days for Emmer are yet to come.

Rather than commenting about his mistakes in December 2011, I should have pointed to the man who was almost governor, who has working at the registration table and said “the problem wasn’t that we had Tom Emmer as our candidate, the problem is that we didn’t have more like him to help.”

But I didn’t. I referred to Emmer as the “Bill Buckner of politics.” I’ve regretted that comment for a long time. It was a political cheap-shot at someone who deserved better. Most people remember Bill Buckner, who was playing first base for the Boston Red Sox in the 1986 World Series, for famously misplaying a routine ground ball, which cost Boston the game. But while researching this post, I learned more about Buckner.

I mistakenly thought Buckner left Boston a year later in disgrace, but he didn’t. He played 75 games for the Red Sox in 1987 and played another 22 in 1990. But the best was yet to come for Buckner and Boston, because in 2008, Buckner was asked to throw out the first pitch on opening day of the 2008 season.  The video below is amazing to watch. A man who was continually beaten by the public and media for his mistakes, walked onto the field at Fenway Park years later, to a standing-ovation.

The Boston Globe reported that Red Sox first baseman, Kevin Youkilis, “made a point to shake Buckner’s hand.” Youkilis was quoted saying about Buckner, ”There’s not too many people that can do what he did today and face thousands of people that booed him, threatened his life. For a man to step out there on the field, it shows how much of a man he is. I tip my cap. I just wanted to shake his hand. Because that’s a true man in life.”

I tip my cap to Tom Emmer, for facing the critics and stepping back on the field. We can all learn from his example.

This post was written by Michael Brodkorb and originally published on – an inside view of Minnesota politics. Follow on Twitter: @politicsdotmn.

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Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 01/27/2014 - 11:36 am.

    Tom Emmer is a conservative

    And thanks to conservatives, he will win his seat in congress in spite of the republican party, not because of it.

  2. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 01/27/2014 - 12:15 pm.

    Trying too hard

    Buddy, I think you burned your bridges when you threatened to expose other Republican affairs in your lawsuit. I don’t mind your political analysis, but this kind of brown-nosing is just sad.

  3. Submitted by Joe Loveland on 01/27/2014 - 12:18 pm.

    Defeat is an orphan

    If about 4,500 Minnesotans – a tiny sliver of the electorate — had voted the other way, Emmer would have been judged a political genius by political analysts, and Dayton would have been judged a political moron. JFK nailed it: “Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.

  4. Submitted by James Hamilton on 01/27/2014 - 12:50 pm.

    I’m unclear

    on what it is Mr. Brodkorb finds so admirable in Mr. Emmer’s pursuit of yet another public office. (By a man who castigated professional politicians before becoming one himself.)

    Tom Emmer unquestionably is the 800 pound Republican gorilla in the 6th District. What else would one expect of Michele Bachmann’s brother from another mother? Where else in the state could he hope to find a base on which to rebuild his political career?

    From where I sit, throwing his hat in this ring was a no-brainer. Absent some major foul up on his part, he probably can count on a good number of years in D.C.

  5. Submitted by David Mindeman on 01/27/2014 - 03:29 pm.

    Hats off? or pragmatic calculation?

    Jeez Brodkorb, you should be able to tell the difference between political courage and pragmatic calculation. Emmer can’t possibly win a statewide race so he goes and immerses himself in the well of tea party conservatism – the 6th district. (Same as Bachmann) Just smart political calculus – not some kind of courageous, against political wisdom gut check. Emmer wasn’t looking for your blessing, Brodkorb. He was just looking for an opening that fit.

  6. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 01/27/2014 - 04:29 pm.

    Perhaps Mr. Brodkorb

    has had a road to Damascus moment when he was involved in a life-threatening accident recently?

    I don’t think this article is simply “brown nosing” as an early commenter put it.

    One of our state representatives, Carly Melin, complained on twitter to Mr. Brodkorb about an inappropriate piece of campaign literature that someone on the Republican side had put out against her in an earlier election. To which Mr. Brodkorb replied:

    .@carlymelin I just found a copy of the mailer online. It should not have been sent out by the RPM. I was the deputy chair & I apologize.

    to which Ms. Melin graciously responded:

    @mbrodkorb Well that’s kind of you. Thank you. I hadn’t thought about it in awhile. Water under the bridge. 🙂

    I don’t know Mr. Brodkorb from Adam, and have never met him. In fact, his activities in the past have been infuriating to a left wing DFLer.


    1. Having someone who actually understands politics and reality is useful to a party whether it is the DFL or the GOP

    2. Mr. Brodkorb is a very smart man and if he has cleaned up his act, he could still make very important contributions to Minnesota politics in the future.

  7. Submitted by Tom Knisely on 01/27/2014 - 07:57 pm.

    Hardly Worthy

    Narcissism and an inability to give up the spot light is hardly worthy of a tip of a cap.

  8. Submitted by John Smith on 01/28/2014 - 09:24 am.


    Who wrote this and where is Brodkorb? As for “narcissism”, there are a couple other GOP candidates in CD6, who fit that description much more closely. Tom Emmer is the right person, the best person, at the right time, in the right district.

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/02/2014 - 10:19 am.

    Kinisely is spot on

    Tom gets right to the point. What we know about about Emmer is that he is a politician with an ego the size of Texas and no shame. It would be ten times more surprising if he didn’t take a shot at the easiest Republican house seat in the nation. I will admit however that he’d be less embarrassing than Bachmann.

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