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MN Republican Party chair candidate: 'We can’t keep putting up the same white 60-year-old guy to speak about our values'

MinnPost file photo by Peter Callaghan
Carnahan: “Saying continuously we're going to cut taxes or that health care is a disaster — we need to say this on a level that connects to people and that is where the party falls short.”

Jennifer Carnahan, a candidate for chair of the Minnesota Republican Party, is convinced that even in the state’s bluest political pockets there are voters who can be persuaded to vote Republican.

Carnahan has tried to live that claim. She ran as a Republican candidate for the Minnesota Senate in District 59, the core of Minneapolis, and won 22 percent of the vote, the highest percentage any Republican has won in recent history. “I looked at 21 years of data in terms of wards and precincts,” she said. “My goal was where to get gains for the party.”

She found those gains in the downtown precincts where voters liked her message of less government, more opportunity, and a notable lack of fixation on social issues. “I think that’s where the party has do things differently,” she said. “We need to pick up gains, not necessarily win the seat. We start winning statewide races this way.” 

Carnahan’s approach may seem radically different from the party’s past election strategies, which have focused on legislative victories, particularly in Greater Minnesota.

These strategies should not be abandoned, Carnahan believes, but they need to be augmented. For that, Carnahan, a Carlson MBA and a veteran of General Mills and Ecolab, calls on her marketing background.

“If I did get elected, I would do focus groups and see how voters live their lives, find out what’s important to them,” she said. “Saying continuously we're going to cut taxes or that health care is a disaster  — we need to say this on a level that connects to people and that is where the party falls short.”

Carnahan throws another firecracker into the mix with a proposal that rings of identity politics. “This is going to rock the boat in the party, but we need to start championing things like inclusiveness and different groups. Republicans have not wanted to go down that route,” said Carnahan, who was adopted from South Korea. “You can talk about the fact that I'm Asian and female, why not? If were elected chair, just that alone would send a powerful message – an adopted South Korean female.”

Carnahan’s website reflects her background with a detailed plan of how she would manage the party — from fundraising to brand building to internal operations. 

On all those fronts, she has formidable competition. Deputy Party Chair Chris Fields, national committeeman Rick Rice and former Senate Minority Leader David Hann are also running for chair. The party’s state central committee, a group of 350 activists, will decide in April who replaces current Chair Keith Downey.

Carnahan welcomes the competition — and the comparisons. “I am who I am and I shouldn’t have to be ashamed. But don't elect me because of what I look like and what gender I am. Elect me because I have a strong professional background.”

Still, she stresses that her distinctiveness is just what the party needs. “I don’t feel it’s a one-size-fits-all approach,” she said. “What resonates with voters in different parts of Minnesota may be different even though we have the same set of values.” 

She believes the party needs to have an evolution both in its message and the messengers themselves, including candidates.

“We can’t keep putting up the same white 60-year-old guy to speak about our values,” she said. “If they say that’s identity politics then that’s too bad.”

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Comments (11)

Diversity!

An Asian American woman, to be sure. An Asian-American woman who was raised in an affluent suburb (Maple Grove) by her adoptive family (who, I'm just guessing, are not Asian themselves), has an MBA, and who worked in corporate America for her entire career.

Yes, radically different from the Republican establishment.

Diversity

I understand your point and think there probably is some truth there, but I am really unconfortable with this kind of judging whether someone is truly from a diverse background. You don't know her experience. You don't know what has shaped her.

Covered before

There has been a previous MinnPost article on Ms. Carnahan:

https://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2016/11/loneliness-running-minn...

We don't KNOW what shaped her...

But I am sure that this was meant to be a hint:

"An Asian-American woman who was raised in an affluent suburb (Maple Grove) by her adoptive family (who, I'm just guessing, are not Asian themselves), has an MBA, and who worked in corporate America for her entire career."

No matter, whatever shaped her she's about 30 or 40 years late to the party. The Republican party is going full speed ahead in the opposite direction of where she wants it to go.

What Has Shaped Her

My point was, whatever may have shaped her, she is offering nothing new. She is not a 60-year old white male, but it sounds like she is going to be hawking the same old policies as they would.

Her background may be diverse, but let's see if she has any "diverse" ideas.

With Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions as its standard-bearers, and with its leaders all lining up to kiss the ring, we all know quite well what the "values" of the Republican party are, whether those "values" are fronted in our little Gau by a "white 60-year-old guy" or a younger Korean-American woman.

It is so true that she has no chance

With the old white males running the show. Even Ronnie is spinning.

Republican values

Since she brought up the issue, you might want to ask what she thinks they are and what the party is actually doing to uphold them. If she carefully looks at what Republicans claim they believe and how they act, she might want to consider changing political parties, particularly noe that Trump rejects anyone who thinks at all differently from him.

We swapped emails

Since I live in the 59th District that Ms. Carnahan would like to represent, I responded to one of her campaign flyers, and we swapped fairly lengthy emails. As a candidate, I thought – and still think – she was fine, and might well provide decent representation for the people in the district. As Joel Stegner suggests, she'd make a very good pro-business DFL candidate. My objection to voting for her last fall had nothing to do with her personally – I'm happy to see an Asian-American woman running for office – and had everything to do with the fact that the political party she's chosen to ally herself with has been transformed from the socially-inclusive, fiscally-conservative party of my own youth, into a knee-jerk reactionary group that's in the pocket of corporate interests, and in recent years – especially here in Minnesota – has spouted some of the most malevolent rhetoric and policy proposals of my lifetime. I simply cannot get behind a candidate whose loyalty is to a party or the faux-philosophy being spouted by that party's national (and in some cases, state) leaders. Even if she were elected, Ms. Carnahan would find herself far outside the current Republican mainstream, which would be little interested in most of her ideas while continuing to try to resurrect a nonexistent and mythical past.

Well, I hope she gets it however

She has the same chance of becoming chair as Rich Stanek does of obtaining the gov nomination. She's way too moderate for today's GOP

What should this teach the Democrats?

“You can talk about the fact that I'm Asian and female, why not? If were elected chair, just that alone would send a powerful message – an adopted South Korean female.”

“We can’t keep putting up the same white 60-year-old guy to speak about our values,” she said. “If they say that’s identity politics then that’s too bad.”

Those two quotes from this article should cause Democrats to think twice about their mirror-image problem - the candidacy of Keith Ellison for the national Democratic Party Chair.

The Democrats in the last election were beaten badly across the country by the Party's emphasis on identity and minority group politics. We need to show that the Democratic Party is the party of all the people, not just the party of big city liberals, minorities, and those who live on the east and west coast. Isn't Keith Ellison as the representative of the Democrats the mirror-image of the Republican's "white 60-year old guy?" I think so. We need to send a different message. We need to broaden our appeal.