“This recount is about the state. We don’t just owe this to [Tom] Emmer and the party. This is about the state.”
Tony Sutton, Minnesota Republican Party chair, delivered these words with the calm demeanor of a man who knows that this is the highest-stake game the state GOP will play for the next four years. At the same time, he must face down the faithful who are saying: Quit while you’re ahead.
Sutton’s challenge is to bolster GOP victories in the Legislature, which have given Republicans majorities in both chambers, while reminding supporters — particularly donors — that, by far, the bigger prize is the governor’s office. It’s not an easy sell.
“There’s a large group of people who are saying it’s time to move on. Let’s get through this and move on,” says one former senior party official. “There’s a lot of people who are pleasantly surprised by the legislative victories and who are more comfortable now with [Mark] Dayton.”
Says another GOP insider: “The stakes are incredibly high, higher than most people understand. People are basking in the glow of the House and the Senate, but in terms of practical power — this is an unknown power.”
In other words, the Legislature is the sum of 201 moving parts that must move as one solid block to equal the power that comes from the governor’s office. That is not likely if for one reason alone: Because of redistricting, both the House and Senate are up for reelection in two years (instead of the usual four-year period for senators), so members will be unusually sensitive to reactions of voters of their districts, making it difficult for party leaders to keep members in line.
Still, there’s some red meat out there to justify the Republican’s ferocious approach. Hennepin County’s vote-reporting errors on election night and the belief that the Republicans were out-lawyered in the 2008 Franken-Coleman recount explain Sutton’s choice of a strong legal team and his aggressive recruitment of recount volunteers.
But will it be enough to energize the fundraising to pay for it all? “The donor community believes we have a good opportunity,” Sutton said.
But Emmer was not the first choice of many GOP donors, and the former party official predicts if may be difficult to raise money.
So Sutton needs to keep issuing the reminders.
“We have an obligation to do this recount, not just a right. We’ve got to be prepared,” he said. “It’s our role to be the cynic and the skeptic. Even though this is a great state- mistakes can be made. Trust but verify.”
Streamlined committee plan
The new GOP majority in the House and Senate is staying on task. Expect that early next week the House and Senate will have worked out a streamlined committee structure that, GOP leaders say, will expedite the massive task of balancing the state budget.
In the House there are three dozen committees and divisions of committees — and even divisions of divisions (i.e., the transportation oversight division of the transportation policy division of the finance committee).
House Majority Leader Matt Dean said the committee number burgeoned under DFL leadership to accommodate all the legislators who wanted to be on the same committee.
“The overlap was cumbersome,” he said. “We’d have one spigot of money going to four different committees and it was hard to keep track of what was being done and required too much oversight to get everything reconciled.”
Dean says along with the new committee structure, there may be some fresh faces as chairmen and chairwomen. “We have a great crop of freshman and sophomore legislators,” he said, and some could ascend to leadership roles.
Dean’s job during the campaign was to recruit these legislators as candidates. Now, he said, they need to have their time used wisely.