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Edina caucuses start GOP’s efforts to reclaim suburban House seats

MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday
Polly Peterson Bowles, standing at right: “I think our government and state are getting off track.”

Round One of the Republican fight to reclaim the suburban legislative seats lost in 2012 started here at Southview Middle School in Edina.

The precincts that make up House District 49A — now represented by former-Republican-turned-DFLer Ron Erhardt — caucused to hear from two candidates who want the GOP endorsement.

Polly Peterson Bowles, an attorney whose father once represented the district, and Dario Anselmo, the former owner of the Fine Line Music Café, brought similar credentials and name recognition to some 300 people at the district caucuses.

They also bring a tilt toward the middle in a district that has traditionally supported fiscally conservative but socially moderate Republicans and, for the first time in decades, elected a DFL state representative.

Bowles made her pitch to the grass-roots sentiments that caucus-goers share. “We are the best people to craft solutions,” she said. “I think our government and state are getting off track.”

Anselmo, who is active in both business and education groups, appealed to the district’s pride in its schools. “I’ve always been involved in education,” he said, citing his work on the Edina Education Fund, a group that raises money for the district’s school system.

Their messages appeared to resonate in Precinct Four, where Scott Honour and Mike McFadden — viewed as the more moderate candidates in the GOP field — respectively won the candidates’ straw poll for governor and U.S. Senate.

The precinct’s 15 participants then went on to debate whether Republicans needed to return to the center. Most agreed the party needed to be more “pragmatic.”

Precinct Four’s straw-poll choices, however, did not reflect the statewide results.

In the gubernatorial race, former state Rep. Marty Seifert, making his second run for the office, reactivated his 2010 base among the party faithful, leading the statewide straw poll with 28 percent. He was followed by state Sen. Dave Thompson at 25 percent. Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson finished in third.

In the statewide U.S. Senate straw poll, state Sen. Julianne Ortman won with 31 percent. Businessman Mike McFadden got 23 percent, and state Rep. Jim Abeler received 15 percent.

Dario Anselmo speaking to attendees at the HD49A precinct caucuses
MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday
Dario Anselmo, right, who is active in both business and education groups, appealed to the district’s pride in its schools.

But in 49A, the state Republican Party is less interested in the district’s preferences for governor and senator than in the choice of candidate to run against Erhardt in November. House Republicans, smarting from their loss of this district, have already dispatched a campaign assistant for Bowles.

Anselmo, who announced his candidacy just two weeks ago, reported on caucus night that he has already raised more than $20,000. “We know it’s going to be expensive” for Republicans to reclaim the seat, he told one precinct gathering.

Both have indicated they are likely to abide by their party endorsement.

Bowles and Anselmo have one more level to go — the March 15 Senate district convention that will endorse candidates for both House seats.

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 02/05/2014 - 11:17 am.

    15 people

    Is a movement!

  2. Submitted by Dean Carlson on 02/05/2014 - 12:19 pm.

    White and Old

    I think it’s quite telling that all the picture of the GOP caucuses (here and other media) show only white people over the age of 45. At least there appears to be some women attending these GOP events. #nofutre

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 02/05/2014 - 02:43 pm.

      It’s the party for adults

      You’re right, the democrats do have a lock on the young and the clueless constituencies.

  3. Submitted by David Frenkel on 02/05/2014 - 12:50 pm.


    It is always good to see competitive races but I don’t see the GOP candidates with any new ideas or solutions other than to get along. No mention of improving schools and school security even though the caucus was held at a public school.

  4. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 02/05/2014 - 12:56 pm.

    That photo can’t be of republicans

    There’s women in it!

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/06/2014 - 10:47 am.

    Good luck

    At best they have incoherent ideas like “limited government” and at worse they have outright toxic ideas about culture wars and voting rights. Their problem is that voters have started realizing this… Republicans are not going to “re-brand” their way back into relevance, they’ll have to come up with something that makes sense. It was funny to see Seifert describe himself as moderate the other day. I have to ask Cindy, do these people really believe that health care is communism?

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