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A field guide to Minnesota Republican subgroups

The party’s official affiliates, such the Liberty Caucus, get more attention come convention endorsement time. But just who are they?

As GOP delegates gather for their state convention this weekend, the Republican Party of Minnesota's member network plays an often under-the-radar role, at least to politics-watchers who only tune into intraparty politics about this time. Known as “the affiliates,” these 11 groups “bring like-minded people together,” says Janet Biehoffer, the GOP national committeewoman who is their primary liaison.

Most affiliates have no membership requirements — but given their focus on identity, membership is self-selecting.

The groups listed here technically have an impact on the endorsement process since they are each allocated two delegates.

  • Minnesota College Republicans
  • MN Federation of Republican Women
  • MN Lao American Republicans
  • Minnesota Young Republicans
  • Republican Seniors
  • Teenage Republicans (TARS)
  • Minnesota Hispanic Republican Assembly
  • MN Cambodian Republicans
  • Republican Liberty Caucus of Minnesota
  • MN Organization of Republican Veterans (MORVets)
  • Hmong Republicans of Minnesota.

But with more than 2,000 delegates at the convention in Rochester this weekend, the affiliates are more of an entrée to party politics than a vehicle for power brokerage.

There are, however, a half dozen affiliates that, perhaps, are more equal than others, by dint of their participation levels, leadership, longevity, and issues.

Minnesota College Republicans

Established 1928
20 chapters; 2,500 members
Chair: Angie Hasek

They are taken seriously because, after all, these are the Republicans of the future, although they don’t have direct impact on endorsements beyond their two delegates.

They’re (appropriately enough) the cheerleaders for the Minnesota GOP. They have a strong relationship with the party because often their members are the workhorses of state and local campaigns. They distribute lawn signs, walk in parades, organize members to show up at rallies.

But they do have an edge to their politics. They sometimes wrangle internally about issues, particularly social issues. But College Republicans are particularly open to welcoming all points of view.

In their straw poll, Marty Seifert was their top choice for Governor, Mike McFadden their top choice for U.S. Senate candidate.

Republican Liberty Caucus of Minnesota

Established 2003
88 registered members; mailing list of 750
Chair: Neil Lynch

The Liberty Caucus, as much as any other state Republican Party subgroup, has changed the convention-and-endorsement dynamic.

In 2012, they helped gain endorsement for their candidate, Kurt Bills to run against Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and succeeded in naming a Ron Paul delegate slate to the national convention.

The real potential of the Liberty Caucus lies in its efforts to give libertarian Republicans more influence in the party. If they can succeed with their goals of limiting the scope of government while eliminating discussion of social issues, they can help broaden the GOP’s appeal.

Don’t confuse the Liberty Caucus with the Tea Party. While there is some common ground, the Tea Party is not a GOP affiliate and does not share the Liberty position on social issues and legislative priorities, such as legalizing medical marijuana.

This year, the Liberty Caucus may not choose to express a preference in the governor’s and Senate contests other than with the votes of its two delegates.

MN Organization of Republican Veterans (MORVets)

Established 2011
90 members
Chair: Mike Cummins

With the Republican platform of a strong national defense, MORVets are a natural fit and a valuable affiliate to support get-out-the-vote efforts.

They, like the Hispanic affiliate, also actively recruit candidates for state and local offices. Currently, five legislative candidates are veterans.

MORVets has a bigger presence in the legislative process than the endorsement process. Their most important initiative is to eliminate the state tax on veterans’ retirement benefits.

Republican Seniors

Established: 1970s
Between 50 and 75 members but monthly meetings often attract twice that number
Chair: Bob Maginnis

The Seniors don’t endorse formally, but any candidate who wants to be taken seriously will get a speaking invitation to the affiliate’s monthly meeting at Poor Richard’s in Bloomington.

The Seniors events can be deceiving and they are evolving. Most of the group appears to be a genial gathering of silver-haired gentlemen and women, enjoying a lunch and conversation.

But look more closely and you’ll find the first of the baby-boomers in the crowd. Within five years, the Seniors will represent the new face of older Republicans.

MN Federation of Republican Women

Established 1941
450 members
Chair: Marge Gruenes

The chair is Marge Gruenes. For Republican stalwarts, ‘nuf said. Gruenes was the chair of the state party in the 1980s and remains indefatigable in organizing at the statewide and grassroots levels.

Grassroots are where MFRW members have the most impact. Five clubs statewide make up the MFRW. They are effective in turning out attendees to precinct caucuses, where a candidate starts the road to endorsement.

They are non-committal to a specific candidate in the weeks leading up to endorsement — but committed to electing the endorsed and/or nominated candidate.

Minnesota Hispanic Republican Assembly

Established 2006
40 members
Chair: Rick Aguilar

Until recently, this affiliate has had limited influence in the MnGOP. Hispanic voters and candidates gravitated toward the DFL and the Republican’s anti-immigration stand hasn’t helped.

But that may be changing. Party chair Keith Downey places a premium on outreach, going into Hispanic neighborhoods and participating in events like the Cinco de Mayo parade.

Chair Rick Aguilar is an effective marketer of multi-cultural events and believes that Hispanics will grow in influence if the state party maintains its outreach. 

Worth noting:

African American Republicans of Minnesota

Established 2014
President: Emmanuel Obikwelu

Although not technically an affiliate, this group is growing fast. Its stated mission is to correct the misperception that African immigrant communities have of the Republican Party.

Their most important issue is for school choice, which fits in well with the Republican platform.

Though not a formal endorsement, AARM says their choice for governor is state Sen. Dave Thompson, who’s made education a cornerstone of his campaign.