New state GOP leaders look to the future

State Chair Tony Sutton
State Chair Tony Sutton

That graciousness shown by former Sen. Norm Coleman Tuesday was not being echoed by top Republican leaders Wednesday afternoon.

“We are ticked off, we were rooked,’’ Tony Sutton, the new party chair of the state Republican Party said in a meeting with reporters. “They [members of the state’s canvassing board] stopped counting votes once he [Al Franken] got enough to win. We got robbed. He [Franken] has a bigger asterisk by his name than Barry Bonds has by his.’’

That was just a sampling.

Umm, what of the graciousness shown by Coleman?

“Senator Coleman is gracious,’’ Sutton said. “I need to be beating Democrats.’’

What does he think of Franken?

“My concern, he’s very partisan,’’ said Sutton of the new senator. “His first event was a partisan rally [at the Capitol]. It would have been a better gesture – the Minnesota way – to reach out.’’

What’s he really think?

“He’s so far left he’s a one-term senator,’’ said Sutton.

Party chair’s job

Of course, it is the job of party chairs to be uber-partisans. But it looks like Sutton, a long time party official who was elected the party’s new chair last month, will take on this role with relish.

Certainly, neither Sutton, nor the party’s new deputy chairman, Michael Brodkorb, are showing any indication that the party needs to moderate the party message to attract more voters. They believe the party needs only make Minnesotans understand the righteousness of the true conservative message and voters will flock to Republican candidates in legislative races.

“We haven’t done a good job of telling people how limited government and lower taxes are a good thing for them,’’ said Sutton, who is the CEO of  Baja Sol Restaurants. (“Fast casual,’’ said Sutton of the restaurants. “We sell value.’’)

Anyhow, Sutton believes the economy, jobs and fiscal responsibility will be THE issues of the 2010 gubernatorial race and state legislative races. But that doesn’t mean that the social conservatives won’t remain an integral part of the party base.

State Deputy Chair Michael Brodkorb
State Deputy Chair Michael Brodkorb

“Fiscal and social conservatism are not mutually exclusive,’’ he said.

Sutton, it should be noted, wasn’t exactly doing cartwheels over the possibilities of either former Congressman Jim Ramstad or Coleman becoming gubernatorial candidates. He hopes, he said, the party has a “spirited debate’’ among a large group of candidates over the coming months.

The one thing he did say about Ramstad and Coleman is that he would expect either of them to abide by party endorsement. Party endorsement, Sutton said, is “sacrosanct.’’  And endorsement from the activists might be difficult for either of the party’s top two names.

Like his predecessor, Ron Carey, Sutton said he will oppose any move to diminish the caucus system, in favor of a primary system. Republican Rod Grams and DFLers Paul Wellstone, he noted, were both products of the caucus system and likely could never have ended up in the Senate in a primary-weighted system.

One area the party will change, Sutton said, is improving its use of technology. That job will fall on the shoulders of Brodkorb, whose profile within the party and across the state rose because of the website Minnesota Democrats Exposed.

Big scoop

Brodkorb was an obscure Republican legislative researcher when he started the site, anonymously in 2004; his first scoop being the tale of DFL legislator Phyllis Kahn pilfering campaign literature of a Republican legislative candidate.

Brodkorb, communications director of the Republican Senate caucus, was upset when the media eventually tied his name to the often vitriolic site, but the loss of anonymity didn’t dim his passion in blasting DFLers.

After writing more than 7,000 blogs on the site, Brodkorb said he signed off with his final blog Tuesday. (“The keys to the store have been over to the new tenants,’’ said Brodkorb of passing editorial control of the site over to Ryan Flynn and Aaron Cocking.)

 He already has met with a handful of conservative bloggers in the state and said he plans to open party events to liberal bloggers as well. Openess to bloggers of all political stripes has not been part of the party practice to date.

“I was afforded every accommodation by the DFL,’’ Brodkorb said of covering DFL events.

In his new position, Brodkorb is sure to get a different view of political bloggers. Already, there are sordid blogs attacking the virtue of various Republican gubernatorial candidates – and these are being written by people calling themselves Republicans.

All things considered, Sutton and Brodkorb seem to be new faces carrying an old, very conservative message to Minnesotans.

But they believe they’ve gotten a jump start on firing up the party for 2010 elections. The Supreme Court decision that finally has made Franken a senator has Republican hearts thirsting for action.

“The silver lining in that is that our people are motivated,’’ Sutton said.

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com. 

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Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Edman on 07/01/2009 - 09:31 pm.

    I’m open (eager even) to hear both sides of an issue. But this attitude is supposed to win me over to the conservatives?

    I think I’ll put Sutton on the list with Phil Krinkie as someone I’m not likely to learn anything from.

  2. Submitted by Dean Carlson on 07/02/2009 - 07:32 am.

    the party needs only make Minnesotans understand the righteousness of the true conservative message

    Yea, that’s really going to help me figure out how to pay for my kids college, make sure the road I drive on to work isn’t littered with potholes, and ensure that my mother-in-law gets proper treatment at the nursing home.

  3. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/02/2009 - 10:58 am.

    Dean, I can understand your concern regarding pot hole filled roads, that’s a public works responsibility.

    But do you really need someone to stop by to help you plan for your family’s future and someone else to take responsibility for ensuring your mother-in-law’s well being?

    Why stop there?

    Why not just mail the keys to your home to Obama’s Department Of Taking Control Of Your Life?

    Sure; they’ll produce a detailed report for you that lists the best toothpaste for your son to use, the proper hairstyle for your wife and make that bothersome briefs vs. boxers decision for you.

  4. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 07/02/2009 - 03:22 pm.

    “They [members of the state’s canvassing board] stopped counting votes once he [Al Franken] got enough to win.”

    This is false. I don’t know that Sutton lied, but it’s hard for me to believe someone in his position didn’t follow the recount closely enough to know that’s false. The fact is Franken pulled ahead during the resolution of the challenged ballots, but not only did the canvassing board finish the challenged ballots, they went on to the absentee judged to have been wrongly rejected.

    Moreover, Coleman’s lawyers themselves stated unequivocally they made no allegations of fraud. These statements seem to have been missed by the conservative tin foil hat brigade.

  5. Submitted by Mickey Dolan on 07/02/2009 - 05:43 pm.

    “Why not just mail the keys to your home to Obama’s Department Of Taking Control Of Your Life?”

    Haven’t the Republicans advocated this position? Women’s rights, Gay marriage…it seems that you can’t have it both ways…The Republican Party knows best in social issues….Seriously?

  6. Submitted by Wally Carr on 07/03/2009 - 07:24 am.

    So, you have a “meeting with reporters”. At least one claim gets made that is patently false. Were reporters allowed to ask questions? Did anybody as Mr. Sutton to explain his statement?

    Mr Grow, this is just plain inferior reporting on your part. Part of the story should be that Tony Sutton lied. When a Democrat lies, that should be part of the story as well.

  7. Submitted by Bruce Anderson on 07/03/2009 - 09:32 am.

    Amazing the whining never stops with both the DFL and Republican parties. With all their special interest money and lousy candiates that keep getting elected it is amazing the whining never stops. Good luck to these new Republican party brains continuing a strategy that enabled their butt kicking last Nov.

  8. Submitted by Jon Schelhaas on 07/03/2009 - 12:50 pm.

    “They believe the party needs only make Minnesotans understand the righteousness of the true conservative message and voters will flock to Republican candidates in legislative races.”

    The righteousness of the true conservative message has nothing to do with the current Rep party. That’s the problem. It’s not that they have to convince people to be conservative, it’s that the Reps are as far from small govt as you can get. See the bailout, the empire building overseas, and the complete destruction of civil rights (habeas corpus, unwarrented phone tabbing, torture) along with the lack of personal freedom (marijuana use, even for the terminally ill) under their watch. Unless those positions change, they’re going to continue to find themselves on the outside looking in.

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