The story was weird. Still, it could have been worse for state House Republicans.
Word got out the Wednesday before Thanksgiving that St. Paul police found state Rep. Tom Hackbarth with a loaded gun in the parking lot of Planned Parenthood. The media could have had a juicy story to plug the news holes that gape over a holiday weekend. But incoming House Speaker Kurt Zellers handled the incident with the skill of the public relations pro that he is.
Within hours after the media got the story, Zellers issued a brief but effective statement that Hackbarth was relieved of his chairmanship of the environment committee until the issue was resolved.
For those who may have forgotten, Zellers handled communications for U.S. Sens. Rod Grams and Norm Coleman, as well as for the state House Republican caucus.
John Wodele, a communications pro who had his own rounds with crisis management while communications director for former Gov. Jesse Ventura, gives Zellers high marks. “His communications and public relations skills were evident,” he said.
Wodele noted that Zellers’ response will have an effect on other legislators. “It’s important for him from the get go that he [shows that] he is strong leader who will require discipline from his caucus,” he said. “I think this makes a huge impression on the caucus that everyone is ethically upstanding.”
As for the public, Wodele said Zellers was aware of skeptical citizenry. “He showed a keen sensitivity to the expectations of the citizens of Minnesota,” he said. “I think it’s encouraging.”
Chamber PAC gets results
The Minnesota Chamber Leadership Fund had a good return on its investments this election. The Chamber PAC reports that 52 of the 58 endorsed state House candidates won their elections and that 30 of 31 endorsed Senate candidates won. Most, but not all, of the candidates are Republicans.
In letter to its members, Chamber President David Olson, also PAC treasurer, writes that “for the first time… Minnesota has legislative majorities who campaigned on and were elected to ensure that Minnesota government is positioned to help businesses succeed and create jobs.”
Both the House and Senate are up for election in 2012 because of redistricting. In his letter, Olson reports that the PAC is already recruiting candidates for that election cycle.
Solving the mystery of raising campaign money
Political fundraising often has an aura of mystery (who attends fundraisers, how much do they give, who’s the event sponsor), but Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek is out in the open with his mystery fundraiser — because the fundraiser is a mystery.
Stanek is inviting donors to join him in solving a “holiday mystery” Thursday, Dec. 2, at the Marriot in St. Louis Park. The theme is “CSI: Hennepin County,” but Stanek isn’t offering many other clues, such as the crime or the suspects. Maybe that’s why it’s a called a mystery dinner party.