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GOP openings for party chairman and Senate majority leader stirring interest

A movement to “draft” Kelly Fenton to run for chairwoman of the troubled Minnesota Republican Party was started this morning.

To keep up with all of this, you need a scorecard.

So far, it looks like this: Fenton outpolled four others and became the party’s deputy chairman earlier this month, replacing Michael Brodkorb, who resigned as deputy chair in October. Fenton then was named “interim’’ chairman, replacing Tony Sutton, who stepped down as chairman just before he would likely have been canned at a December meeting of the party’s executive board.

Brodkorb is a story unto himself. Once seen as one of the party’s most powerful behind-the-scenes players, he’s now been zeroed out, linked through timing, to the “inappropriate behavior’’ issues that brought down Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch last week. He’s no longer communications director of the Senate Republican caucus and also has disappeared as a volunteer adviser to the 1st District congressional campaign of state Sen. Mike Parry.

Presumably Fenton is behind the “draft movement,’’ which likely began last week with the news that Brandon Sawalich, an executive with Starkey hearing aid company, had withdrawn from the race after being arrested at the Twin Cities airport for driving a vehicle with expired tags.

Sawalich had been considered the favorite to become the party chair, having the support of many party heavyweights.  It likely wasn’t just the license tags problem that led to him pulling out of that race. Stories surfaced late last week that Sawalich also had been involved several years ago in an out-of-court settlement of a sexual harassment allegation.

There remain other candidates for the chairmanship. Former state legislator Mike Osskopp remains a candidate, as does Todd McIntyre, a relative unknown.

Others may surface before the Dec. 31 meeting in St. Cloud of the party’s executive committee.

Meantime, the GOP Senate caucus soon will meet to select a replacement for Koch, who is under some pressure to give up her Senate seat.

Among those senators considered likely candidates for the majority leader position are Geoff Michel, currently the “interim’’ leader, as well as David Hann and Dave Senjem, who previously served as minority leader before being bounced by Koch when the party took over the majority.

First-termer Dave Thompson also is considering a bid to become majority leader.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 12/19/2011 - 02:03 pm.

    Dave Thompson is smart, thoughtful and unafraid to speak plainly when appropriate. He’s the right man at the right time.

  2. Submitted by Madeline Anderson on 12/19/2011 - 09:05 pm.

    Dave Thompson is everything that’s wrong with GOP politics. He would be a disaster as a leader. Unless that “sheltered, middle-aged white male kneejerk conservative” faction is larger than we thought.

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