With this year’s major state elections, the leadership of the Republican Party of Minnesota has to master a balancing act.
“We’re not afraid of primaries,” says state GOP Chair Keith Downey, “but our endorsement has to be important enough that it’s worth a lot.”
The party has begun internal discussion about the endorsement process, which remains important to party activists, while acknowledging the political reality of likely primary contests in some of its high-profile key races.
The discussion comes during an election cycle with six Republican candidates for governor, and counting. And there are three GOP candidates ready to challenge U.S. Sen. Al Franken.
Several contenders say they will go to a primary if they are not endorsed.
“If we are going to be more open, the political reality of today is that there will be primary challenges. So, is there any merit for the party to have some basic ground rules?”
The issue arose during the GOP’s recent executive committee meeting, which considered the idea of adopting some kind of guidelines.
Downey insists, however, that any endorsement policy is in the earliest stages of discussion.
The initial report of a defined set of guidelines, he said, came from minutes of the executive committee meeting that condensed the conversation of a brainstorming session.
Downey acknowledged that the group talked about options that could potentially shrink the pool of Republican candidates.
One such idea could deny endorsement to candidates who had run recently as candidates from other parties. Another variation would withhold endorsement from candidates who had run against endorsed candidates within two election cycles.
But those suggestions are specific and do not “convey the basic premise of the discussion,” Downey said.
The party, meanwhile, has yet to unify its Tea Party activists, libertarians, fiscal conservatives, and social conservatives.
“The political process is always noisy,” Downey said. “[But] if the different types of Republicans would apply their efforts to reach like-minded people, I think we will have more success.”
He suggests that an endorsement policy could achieve that goal.
A policy change, though, is far from enactment, he said, noting that any change in the party constitution goes through several committees and then to a vote by the delegates.
Still, he said, “It’s a worthy discussion. The discussion and reprinting of our minutes lit up a conversation.”