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Downey says he definitely (maybe) won’t run again for state Republican Party chair

Minnesota GOP chair Keith Downey
MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday
Minnesota GOP chair Keith Downey

Despite big election victories in November, the Minnesota Republican Party may be heading for a change of leadership.

An announcement by party chair Keith Downey that he will not seek a third term is another sign that Republican activists see change as part of their response to the election of Donald Trump and the new GOP majorities in the Minnesota House and Senate.

“It is not my intent to run for another term as party chair but I will make a final decision by year-end,” Downey wrote in an email to GOP activists. 

In an interview, Downey said the email was meant to serve as a heads-up. The election of a new party chair takes place in the spring. “In fairness, it is to give those who might run time to make a decision,” he said.

He also indicated that he could run again under certain circumstances. “What I said is, it’s not my intent to run but I also said that it wasn’t my intent to run the first time or the second time,” he said with a chuckle.   

During Downey’s four years as the head of the party, his job has been focused on internal governance. He replaced antiquated technology, shifted party headquarters from St. Paul to the heart of Minneapolis, and, most significantly, reduced the party’s more than $2 million dollar debt by half.

But party mechanics were of little interest to voters in 2016, Downey said, referring to a statement that Congressman Tom Emmer made in MinnPost

“I don’t think America voted for Republicans,” Emmer told reporter Sam Brodey. “I think America was sending a very strong message that we don’t like the way things are going… We want some changes.”

Downey agrees. “The voters spoke,” he said. “We could say Republicans were the benefactors, but now we need to govern. We need to show we’re going out of Washington and St. Paul to take what they voiced and deliver.”

That sounds like Downey could still be the right man for the job of party chair. But the GOP activists I’ve talked to so far say this is not the moment for status quo.

There’s no short list yet as to who would succeed Downey. And should he choose to move on, even his supporters acknowledge it could be a good move. The consensus on the GOP inside is that, as much as anything, the party needs to send a message that new blood trumps a portfolio of experience.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Nick Foreman on 12/13/2016 - 07:07 pm.


    Had nothing to do with the last election. He is the latest casualty.

  2. Submitted by Andy Noble on 12/14/2016 - 10:19 am.

    Keith Downey

    Keith has served our party well over the last 4 years during some challenging times internally. The Republican Party of Minnesota is quite poised to make a significant comeback, but it is hardly just about the MNGOP. Since 2008, both here in Minnesota and nationally, the GOP (via the RNC) has rebuilt an infrastructure for messaging, training, fundraising, and campaigns that can/will win future elections here in Minnesota and elsewhere. Minnesota is a perpetually difficult battlefield for the GOP, but the recent election of Donald Trump should provide a much-needed focus and emphasis by such groups as the RNC, the RGA (Republican Governors Assn.), and other national conservative policy groups interested in the fact Trump got within 45,000 votes of becoming the first Republican President since 1972 to turn the state red? Other significant groups like the Freedom Club, MN Jobs Coalition, and Minnesota Action Network are just a few lateral conservative organizations that have effectively tilted control of the state’s House & Senate back to Republicans in 2016…a long and painful journey since 2008. Keith Downey has been a tireless tactician and leader of our party during the past 4 years of DFL control.

    The MNGOP must do more within the metro Twin Cities – THE primary determining factor for how the labor unions control the DFL politics and politicians by financing them well to nullify an otherwise outbound massive red state geographically. Big labor OWNS Minnesotans and their votes, despite being a minority of the overall voters, but the effectiveness and money raised by the DFL through public labor unions seeking to control our schools, local, county, and state governments and the pensions, salaries, and rich benefits paid out to these positions creates an ever-present conflict Minnesota residents need to start seeing for what it truly represents. Education Minnesota, the leading state teacher’s union, gave over $16 MILLION alone to Governor Mark Dayton’s election campaign while the Minneapolis & Saint Paul Public Schools continue to graduate 50% of Hispanics and African-American children? Yet, teachers receive between 6-9% negotiated pay increases per their collective bargaining contracts negotiated almost exclusively with DFL-elected politicians in the metro Twin Cities.

    The next 2-4 years will be quite telling for Minnesota and it’s future course politically and economically. We have been blessed (and take for granted) the immense private corporate community and leadership that literally doles out billions of dollars to local charities and employees in the form of good-paying jobs and employment, but if we don’t start challenging this status quo and those who singularly control it, we will soon discover the competitiveness and warm environments that others offer safe-haven to a few of these corporate titans to relocate and get out of what the Tax Foundation’s ranked Minnesota as a bottom 5 state against all other states.

    Minnesotans are tired of the Twin Cities controlling the outcome while burdening the rest of the state’s residents and businesses with multi-billion dollar bills for light rail and $21,000-per-student-per year public education costs clearly failing children, and specifically minority families. The MNGOP is poised to accept this challenge and continue the fight against socialism and poor governance without regard to Minnesota’s future. We thank Keith Downey for all his many contributions, leadership, and guidance through his chapter of our party, and we welcome the opportunity to write a unique and effective new chapter for Minnesota and conservatives alike.

  3. Submitted by Terence Mahoney on 12/26/2016 - 10:25 am.

    The other side

    What about the DFL? Is there a real challenge to Ken Martin?

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