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Ortman marches to the right with endorsements, positions

Citizens United, the same group that successfully fought campaign spending limits, gave Julianne Ortman the nod and slammed opponent Mike McFadden.

Ortman’s strategy to polish her conservative credentials appears to be working. Several polls show her as the top Republican candidate to beat Franken.
MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Julianne Ortman has notched another endorsement from a national conservative standard bearer as she continues a rightward swing to gain GOP endorsement to run against Sen. Al Franken. 

Citizens United (the same group whose lawsuit against the Federal Elections Commission resulted in unrestricted political spending by corporations and unions) not only endorsed Ortman but also slammed one of her GOP opponents, Mike McFadden.

“Minnesotans deserve a clear choice – and Julianne Ortman can best articulate that choice because liberal Mike McFadden is just ‘Franken-lite,’” Citizens United President David Bossie said in a news release. “Unfortunately, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and other Washington establishment fixtures are supporting McFadden as if Minnesotans have already made their decision.”

Former Alaska governor and vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin took a similar swipe at McFadden in her Ortman endorsement announcement last week.

There could be questions

Undoubtedly, those endorsements would be used against Ortman in a general election campaign against Franken. Should Ortman get the state party endorsement, she might even face questions, particularly about Palin’s backing, in the Republican primary that McFadden and candidate Jim Abeler say they will enter.

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But for now Sarah Palin and Citizens United can only help Ortman with her finesse to downplay the more moderate reputation she had as state senator from Chaska, a reputation that includes legislative proposals to raise taxes when the state was facing budget deficits.

In 2011, Ortman authored a bill to tax some online sales, although she made it clear she wanted the bill introduced for the sake of discussion.

In 2009, Ortman proposed a tax increase on predatory lenders – credit institutions that charged more than a 15 percent interest rate. Again, she qualified, saying that she hoped the new revenue would be used to drop rates in the low- to middle-income tax brackets.

Those actions cost Ortman the Republican endorsement for her state Senate seat in 2012.  But they may not affect her support today among delegates who will determine the U.S. Senate endorsement at the party convention in May.

Jack Rogers, president of the Minnesota Tea Party Alliance said, “Voting records in office is a thing we look at.” Although the Tea Party doesn’t formally endorse, its members tend be active in the GOP Party structure that leads to earning a delegate slot at the state convention.

Rogers said Tea Party support is earned by ranking a candidate on his or her position on a list of issues. Among the U.S. Senate candidates, “Julianne is in the top two of those people right now,” he said.  He declined to name the other candidate.

Taking no chances

Ortman appears to be taking no chances in misinterpretations of her positions.  At a debate earlier this week sponsored by the Republican Jewish Coalition, she was unequivocal in her support for military spending, opposition to NSA spying, and support of a “personhood” proposal to grant legal rights to fetuses. 

She also changed her position on the Affordable Care Act. “I’m not a full repeal person,” she told the Star Tribune in a September 2013 interview.  In Tuesday’s debate, she joined her fellow candidates in calling for an end to Obamacare, with no exceptions.

Ortman’s strategy to polish her conservative credentials appears to be working. Several polls show her as the top Republican candidate to beat Franken. And, in the contest that’s most important for now, Ortman is leading among delegates who will choose a party endorsee next month.