In the end, it wasn’t much of a contest. The Republican Party of Minnesota showed united support for its leadership, re-electing Keith Downey to a second term as chair with 68 percent of the vote of 342 party activists who attended a state central committee meeting Saturday.
Downey had been challenged by Bill Jungbauer and Neil Lynch, two men who represent the more libertarian wing of the party. Both asserted that the party was failing to attract younger and more diverse voters.
Lynch, a software engineer, said the party had a “product problem,” trying to sell its policies to a younger generation voters that disagrees with Republican cultural values. Those younger voters, Lynch said, believe that “government should stay out of your wallet and your bedroom.”
But a group of activists that included a libertarian favorite, state senator Dave Thompson, and Angie Hasek, president of the Minnesota College Republicans, offered Downey’s name in nomination.
In his brief speech to the delegates, Downey maintained that the party has turned around, systematically taken steps to retiring its debt – now at $1.3 million – and helping elect a Republican majority to the Minnesota House.
His challengers, he said in an interview, “raise important issues.”
As to the party’s efforts to include a diverse group of voters, Downey said Republican issues do have appeal. “Young people care about their future and their opportunities and their being able to write their own script,” he said.
But, he added, “We do have to be more intentional and get back in front of them and to that point, I couldn’t agree more with Neil [Lynch] that we need to do more.”
The delegates also elected Chris Fields to a second term as deputy chair.