GOP notebook: Zellers and the Hackbarth incident, tally on Chamber candidates, and a political mystery

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.

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Comments (21)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/29/2010 - 05:24 pm.

    “…incoming House Speaker Kurt Zellers handled the incident with the skill of the public relations pro that he is.”

    Yes, the Party response was handled well, and as an independent voter, I’m happy to see it done the way it was done. I hope it DOES send the proper message to Republican legislators that winning an election doesn’t mean all the rules have been suspended.

    That said, unless you’re up-front about doing PR for House Speaker Zellers, please, Cyndy, stop fawning.

    As for the letter from Chamber President Olson, I’m waiting to see if the legislature does, in fact, serve the public, or merely serves the venal interests of business.

  2. Submitted by Nick Coleman on 11/29/2010 - 07:17 pm.

    The Hackbarth story was more than just “weird.” It was a disturbing tale of armed stalking by a stalwart of the “Family Majority” Morally Self-Righteous Brigade who has been involved in demagoguery and political haymaking at the expense of gays and pregnant women for years. My old friend Cyndy B. seems to have forgotten that there is more than just a public relations problem for Mr Zellers here. There is a public safety problem, and a public policy problem involving hypocrisy and creepitude. Hackbarth — does he wear his gun while in the State Capitol? — should never get near a legislative chairmanship again.

  3. Submitted by Lynda Friedman on 11/29/2010 - 09:00 pm.

    When objective facts: loaded gun, parking lot, married but looking for “girlfriend”, aren’t on your side, it is certainly good to have a professional PR person like Mr. Zellers as Speaker. One can only imagine how creative he will be with budget deficit issues. Sorry, but it is pretty early to judge his handling of this situation as successful. When Rep Hackbarth takes his chairmanship “after the issue is resolved” to the applause of his fellow Republicans, then we will hear how talented Mr. Zellers really is at PR.

  4. Submitted by David Willard on 11/30/2010 - 12:23 am.

    Oh goodie, not only has NickBoy re-infested my Sunday Tribune, he’s sharing his derangement on MinnPost comment sites whilst plugging his website. He used to do good on human interest stories, but his absolute hatred is kind of redundant on this site, unless it’s a contest on who can be more irrationally consumed by politics. You Lefties..Go to church. There are more important things than politics!

  5. Submitted by Tom Rees on 11/30/2010 - 05:39 am.

    According to the latest campaign finance report filed by State Representative Mark Buesgens, his wife was reimbursed for an August fundraiser in Shakopee for $2,790. While reported as a success, it appears by the campaign finance report that at most a whopping $500 was raised. (It may have been a small group as a $100 donation was the cost of attending.) No wonder Minnesota has budget problems with legislators paying for parties like this one!
    (I expect that no $50 bartender fee was paid because the $400 minimum bar bill was probably exceeded.)

  6. Submitted by Ann Baxter on 11/30/2010 - 08:12 am.

    Speaking as a woman, who cares one bit about how Zellers handled the situation? This article is pandering and it ignores the central issue: an elected “leader” is carrying a weapon while hunting for a woman because he thought she was lying to him. Then he conveniently “can’t recall” her name or where online he met her. Why isn’t the issue about an armed man caught stalking a woman and the potential for violence when/if he found her? Where’s the moral outrage from women? Don’t get me wrong, I’m equally horrified that he was so intent on his mission of finding the woman that he didn’t realize he was in the Planned Parenthood parking lot. How is this man allowed to carry a concealed weapon? Revoke his permit, strip him permanently of any leadership positions and let’s stop praising the Speaker for doing the only thing he could. And please, Ms. Brucato, stop trying to hide the real issues.

  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/30/2010 - 08:12 am.

    OK, I got suckered again. I don’t why I took a chance that Brucato would write an interesting story but I did. My bad. So we got story about Republican PR from a Republican PR person… I’m not surprised, just disappointed.

  8. Submitted by tim jones on 11/30/2010 - 08:39 am.

    keep him from going near a chairmanship? what does it take to get handed you walking papers? how much excuse making can be doen for a whacko before they realize he can do more damage as a yes man for the gop then he will do as an ex politician where he can sit home and rant to his friends.

    where can you find a list of the chamber backed candidates?

  9. Submitted by Karl Bremer on 11/30/2010 - 09:33 am.

    Does MinnPost have any former DFL flaks on payroll to provide cover for Democrats exhibiting creepy and possibly dangerous behavior? Just wondering. Are real journalists really that hard to find in this town?

  10. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/30/2010 - 09:47 am.

    You know, reading all the concern and outrage being directed at Tom Hackbarth’s admittedly odd behavior, one cannot help but remember the reaction from the left after a member of the Saint Paul Public School board was caught enjoying pornography on a computer in a public library (evidently it wasn’t child pornography as first thought; merely extremely youthful appearing young men), after having been previously forgiven for sleeping in his SPPS office, after having been previously forgiven for using official SPPS stationary to advertise for a homosexual roommate.

    Suffice it to say one might now wonder upon whom the apparently endless supply of understanding and forgiveness was finally expended.

  11. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 11/30/2010 - 09:56 am.

    David, the only hatred I see in the comments section is the comment you directed toward Nick Coleman. No substantive criticism, but a couple of ad hominems and a false claim that Coleman is plugging his website.

    Ms. Brucato’s story is entirely about politics, and the topic of discussion is the escapades and discipline of a legislator. If you think there is too much focus on politics, why are you here? Maybe you should go to church instead.

  12. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 11/30/2010 - 10:10 am.

    Say, Swifty?

    I can remember when Al Oertwig – the school board member in question – was accused of viewing pornography at a public library. I also remember that whatever reaction “the left” or anyone else had to the story was impacted by the fact that Oertwig resigned from the board. I expect that if Mr. Hackbarth had resigned his legislative seat, the reaction by “the left” would be quite different.

  13. Submitted by Lynda Friedman on 11/30/2010 - 11:43 am.

    Thanks to Ann B for her wise comments. Speaking as another women, if these old men in politics continue to have these meltdowns and put other people in danger with their guns, I propose an age limit for them rather than term limits. Too many male politicians (and their supporters on MinnPost!) dealing with emotional issues to work on taxpayer business with reasonable minds.

  14. Submitted by Nick Coleman on 11/30/2010 - 12:21 pm.

    “NickBoy” has “re-infested” the StarTribune and is “sharing (my) derangement” and “hatred” on MinnPost? Let me thank the comment moderators at MinnPost for making me feel “at home.” It’s like I’m still on the Strib site!
    Also, I’d like to apologize for my last column in the Strib, in which I saluted Tom Emmer for saying he will do the “right thing” and not lodge a challenge against the recount if the vote differential remains wide.
    Sorry about that. You know how deranged I get.

  15. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/30/2010 - 12:42 pm.

    Oh, Dan, you had probably forgotten that there was overwhelming consensus among interested leftist parties (read the rest of the school board and their supporters) that it would be an unimaginable tragedy for Oertwig to resign.

    Unfortunately, community stakeholders (read parents) felt otherwise since that was his third, count ’em third, scandal and the second of a sexual nature.

    You may not have been present, either, when the committee of the board read their resolution of disappointment of his loss and thanks for his wondrous service when Oertwig made his decision public. You are also probably not aware that only impassioned pleadings from the Democrat party kept him from running again for his seat the following year.

    But by all means, please do continue…something about “reasonable minds”, wasn’t it?

  16. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/30/2010 - 12:47 pm.

    Never fear, and no apologies necessary Nick.

    Please feel free to salute in as many, or few directions as you wish; it’s not as if anything of any middling consequence depends on it.

  17. Submitted by Lynda Friedman on 11/30/2010 - 01:06 pm.

    Hey, Mr. Swift, I see your Al Oertwig and raise you one Senator Coleman’s father in a pizza parking lot. Both sad situations that don’t belong in this discussion. I don’t want either one chairing an important legislative committee. Let’s stick to Mr. Zeller and his (your?) party supporting for leadership positions old men stalking women with loaded guns. I am surprised this is a “right v left” issue to you.

  18. Submitted by Nick Coleman on 11/30/2010 - 01:41 pm.

    For the record — and not withstanding Mr Swift’s prodigious scholarship — all of Al Oertwig’s situations were chronicled extensively in the leftie local media. I, myself, wrote about Mr Oertwig (rather harshly, I’m afraid; but in a sufficiently deranged manner to please Mr Swift)while I was employed at the St Paul newspaper. You could look it up, but that would involve the use of a library, which explains much ignorance.

  19. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/30/2010 - 04:02 pm.

    Lynda, should Coleman’s father dare to run for a position of public trust, you can count on me to oppose him vociferously; please alert me as soon as you get word.

    Hackbarth’s issue is only left vs. right in that it’s a matter of faux outrage vs. sincere bemusement.

    I might point out, for instance, that “stalking” is a criminal offense with which Hackbarth has not been charged. Fact is, as I understand it, weird behavior isn’t a crime for which he could be charged.

    Given that it’s been certified as such by NYU Professor of Journalism Jay Rosen, I’m satisfied that anything Nick chooses to write is likely to be be sufficiently deranged to suit me, however I’m at a loss to identify the significance he is trying to attach to it vis-a-vis Al Oertwig’s behavior and the left’s reaction to it.

  20. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 11/30/2010 - 07:35 pm.

    Say, Swifty?

    “Unfortunately, community stakeholders (read parents) felt otherwise since that was his third, count ’em third, scandal and the second of a sexual nature.”

    When one previous “scandal” involves sleeping in his office, and the other involves using campaign stationary to advertise for a roommate, the “count ’em” part isn’t too impressive. The fact that gay man advertised for a gay roommate in a gay bar itself isn’t scandalous or even newsworthy unless one suffers from gay panic to the extent you do.

  21. Submitted by Lynda Friedman on 11/30/2010 - 10:36 pm.

    Mr. Swift, I believe former Sen Coleman’s father died within a short time of his unfortunate incident. And Al Oertwig resigned and has not “dared to run for a position of public trust”. The same cannot be said of Rep Hackbarth who apparently has neither resigned or given up aspirations to Republican Leadership. My point is that the sad end to Al Oertwig’s years of public service has as much place in this discussion as bringing up the old scandal involving former Senator Coleman. Now that I think of it, however, there was that Republican candidate for governor who groped teen-aged girls in a swimming pool. ….. And snarky comments aside, women in St. Paul do not want to be followed (or stalked) by any person with a loaded gun. In support of Ann B, women of all political points of view see this behavior as a real problem. Very few women, (C B may be an exception) find either “faux outrage or sincere bemusement” a reasonable choice for us in the Hackbarth scandal. Give it up, Mr. Swift. You are taking the wrong side in this fight if you support Rep Hackbarth’s behavior, whatever it is labeled by professional PR people.

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