Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.


Does Donald Trump really think Minnesota is in play?

A series of recent events seems to indicate the state has captured Trump’s attention, however fleetingly.

Hiring Mike Lukach as state campaign director was among a string of events that seemed to indicate that Minnesota is on Donald Trump's radar.
REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Around the same time Donald Trump hired a state campaign director for Minnesota, a Trump sign sprouted up in the neighborhood of my cabin in northern Minnesota. 

The timing of the sign’s appearance and the hiring were coincidental. What’s not coincidental is that the state campaign director, Mike Lukach, is the former campaign director for 8th Congressional District candidate Stewart Mills — experience that could help Trump mine (sorry) northern Minnesota for votes, thanks to Trump’s proposals on trade and immigration.   

Lukach, reached by phone, declined to give an interview other than saying he started on the job two weeks ago. But David FitzSimmons, chief of staff for Rep. Tom Emmer, confirmed that he met with Lukach last week. “I think he’s a definitely a professional guy, so he will know how to do the basics,” FitzSimmons said. “We talked about how to access not just Republicans but Democrats and independents who are not locked in.”

Lukach’s hiring was among a string of events that seemed to indicate that Minnesota is on the GOP presidential candidate’s radar, even if the state represents an unlikely pickup in November. Days after Trump hired Lukach, he also singled out Minnesota in a speech in Maine, calling Minneapolis a breeding ground for terrorists because of its Somali population. That came after an announcement that Trump will have a fundraiser in Minneapolis on Aug. 19, which was followed by a report in the The National Journal that the Trump campaign has requested ad rates for TV time in Minnesota (along with 16 other states).

Article continues after advertisement

One of the hosts of the fundraising event is Hubbard Broadcasting CEO Stanley Hubbard, who is not happy with Trump’s recent behavior — especially his comments about Khizr and Ghazala Khan — and recently wrote the nominee to express his frustration.

Still, he’s standing by his commitment to host the Minneapolis fundraiser. “I forgot I said I’d do one of these and I was just reminded,” said Hubbard, one of 10 hosts of the Minneapolis event. Hubbard gasped at the $100,000 price tag for the top-tier event, but the minimum asking price of $1,000 “sounds reasonable,” he said.

The Minneapolis event will be the second fundraiser that week. On Aug. 16, Trump will be in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. The fundraisers are independent of each other with a separate roster of hosts, although both events are coordinated with the Republican National Committee and potential area donors have received invitations to both. 

At neither event is there any indication that Trump intends to make a public appearance, though that could change given the recent history of the Trump campaign, which is nothing if not unpredictable. 

FitzSimmons hopes so. Trump’s positions could be very appealing to some swing voters in Minnesota, Fitzsimmons said, “but it’s hard to do stuff when you don’t have the person.”