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Kurt Bills gains advantage for GOP Senate endorsement

Kurt Bills

In the contest to be the Republican challenger to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a last-place presidential contender may decide the outcome. Based on the strength and organization of Ron Paul’s Minnesota campaign, the odds are tipping in favor of the candidate Paul has endorsed: Rosemount High School economics teacher and state Rep. Kurt Bills.

“I think he has a very good chance,” said Bills campaign adviser Dave Fitzsimmons.

Campaign chair and legislative colleague Keith Downey is more direct. Bills “definitely” will win the endorsement of Republican delegates who make their decision May 18 and 19 in St. Cloud.

None of the GOP candidates has raised much money, and that means advantage goes to Bills. Identifying, cultivating and encouraging delegates to support a candidate is the single most important element of an endorsing campaign. Just look at the 1994 Republican endorsement for governor when the extremely popular incumbent, Arne Carlson, lost the endorsement to the delegate-focused Alan Quist.

Even one of Bills’ competitors, the campaign of former state Rep. Dan Severson, acknowledges there’s a reason for Bills to be confident. Paul’s Minnesota operation has secured delegate support with exquisite precision, and a significant number of those delegates will likely back Bills, according to a Severson’s campaign manager.

But the campaigns for all three contenders say the race isn’t over. Delegates want to be courted until the very end and delegate counts are fluid.

“From what we are seeing now, it’s starting to move but more than half are undecided,” said Kyler Nerison, communications director for Pete Hegseth, the Ivy-league educated, Afghan war veteran from Forest Lake who is leading in fundraising. “It’s still pretty wide open.”

Fitzsimmons points to the relative anonymity of Bills and Hegseth as a complication that led to most of the state convention delegates going into the process as uncommitted. “There’s still a very high amount of non-commitments,” he said.

Fitzsimmons should know. He’s one of the best Republican nose-counters in the state. He acknowledged that he has a count of delegates likely to endorse Bills, “but I’m not telling it to you,” he said.

Fitzsimmons, like the other campaign officials, prefers to extol his own candidate’s virtues, citing what he says is Bills’ ability to address the economic concerns of  young voters. “You have somebody dealing day-in and day-out with young people. Even when they did it by the book, everything they were supposed to do – they’re feeling they’ve been given the short end of the stick.  It’s a frustration that can be tapped into,” Fitzsimmons said.   

Pete Hegseth
MinnPost photo by James NordPete Hegseth

The Severson campaign points out Severson’s years of legislative and leadership experience, including a 2010 statewide run for secretary of state, and an ability to reach the new voters. 

As for Hegseth, he is a 31-year-old war hero with some demonstrated fundraising prowess. “In the month since Pete’s announcement, he’s outraised his opponents,” said Nerison. “That is a point for the delegates. They know it’s going to take a lot of money to beat Klobuchar in November.”

Nerison also took a swipe at Bills’ support for some of Ron Paul’s arcane monetary positions. “Gold standard and paper money — you can read out of an economic textbook all day and that’s not going to sway voters,” said Narrison.

Fitzsimmons responded: “What they’re really trying to do is cast Ron Paul and Kurt Bills as one and the same. But the relationship is Bills introducing Paul at a campaign event and Paul endorsing him.”

Bills Campaign Chair Downey, who supported former Gov. Tim Pawlenty in the presidential race, respects Paul’s delegate organization and criticizes the portrayal of Paul delegates as uninterested in the rest of the Republican Party. “To disparage the Ron Paul people is an insult to the process,” he said.

Although as many as half of the convention’s 2,200 delegates may be uncommitted and it takes 60 percent to get an endorsement, no one disputes there’s a Ron Paul tidal wave. Three months ago, no one knew who Kurt Bills was. In just over three weeks, he may well surf the wave to endorsement.

Comments (17)

  1. Submitted by Tom Clark on 04/25/2012 - 10:30 am.

    So it’s not just the DFL who cries “Abide! Abide!”

    and endorses candidates who best please the true believers. Mark Dayton was right to not “abide” by the endorsement process and the DFL can be very thankful he didn’t. Otherwise they’d also be living through what Wisconsin has for the past two years.

  2. Submitted by Tim Walker on 04/25/2012 - 10:57 am.

    Bills is an econ teacher, eh?

    I wonder if he teaches the entirely discredited trickle-down theory to his students at Rosemount High School, and if so, whether any of them challenge him on it.

  3. Submitted by Chuck Johnson on 04/25/2012 - 01:20 pm.

    True believers?

    Are you referring to all those Ron Paul kooks who agree with the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs who has asserted that war with Iran would be “imprudent”?

    I still trying to figure out how anyone can claim to be a fiscal conservative and simultaneously campaign for a war with Iran which will end up costing the USA trillions.

  4. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 04/25/2012 - 02:24 pm.

    Name recognition

    Yeah, too bad neither Hegseth nor Bills have famous fathers who’s name they could count on in the election, unlike the otherwise anonymous county attorney married to a guy named Bessler.

    • Submitted by Tom Clark on 04/26/2012 - 09:12 am.

      A rose by any other name

      Name recognition didn’t seem to help Pat “Anderson” Awada much when she lost to Rebecca Otto, so maybe the voters aren’t quite as dumb as you seem to think they are.

  5. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/25/2012 - 02:29 pm.

    I assume . . .

    . . . that this article was meant to focus only on the horserace for the nomination. It was a good analysis of that process.

    If Mr. Bills does get the nomination, he will be an Allen Quist-level embarrassment to the Republican Party. His adherence to discredited economics (gold and silver? Really?) as well as his poor understanding of the US Constitution (states may not print their own money) are going to make him unelectable, in a landslide. The question will be not just how badly Mr. Bills will lose, but how many Republican candidates will he drag down with him.

  6. Submitted by Arito Moerair on 04/25/2012 - 03:21 pm.

    Wait a second. A high school econ teacher running for office? Aren’t his students being indoctrinated?

  7. Submitted by David Broden on 04/25/2012 - 05:26 pm.

    GOP Status Needs Primary Challenges of Endoresed Candiates

    The evolving sage of the turmoil and ideological focus within the Minnesota GOP continues to grow and has now become a significant barrier to good government policy in the state. As a former active GOP leader and one that is currently involved in public policy organizations across Minnesota I have concluded that to begin the process to bring the Mn GOP back to the focus on good government by moderate progresssives that Mn GOP leaders demonstrated most of not all GOP endorsed candidates for the legislature and for some of the congressional races must be challenged in the primary. As I have observed and spoken with several candiates for the legislature I am amazed at how little they know about government. Recent comments included: 1) of 4 candidates not one could name an governor other than Pawlenty; 2) none of the 4 knew what LGA was/is and did not care; 3) none were aware that there is a joint powers act; 4) two did not know what Pigs Eye is and why; 5) 3 of 4 did not know why the metro council was formed and what if any good it has done; 6) 2 of 4 had no understanding of fiscal disparities; 7) two said that they did not care what greater Mn required they would focus on people issues in their district meaning marriage amendment and gun rights; 7) 3 of 4 want to politicize the judicary; 8) all like the idea of legislation by consitutional amendment. And it goes on and on. These candidates do not represent the traditional Mn GOP voter or the independent who often vote GOP to provide a win. With these views the party endosement is out of step and primary contests offer opportunity.
    Dave Broden

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 04/26/2012 - 08:04 am.

      Tell you what, Broden

      Put those questions on a government literacy test that all prospective voters must pass and you’d have a point. The state legislature is supposed to be made up of citizens who take leave of their jobs for a few weeks a year to deal with the affairs of the state of Minnesota by representing the concerns and points of view of the constituents in their voting district.

      If anything has destroyed the system it’s professional politicians and wannabees who see their roles as horse traders to decide who-gets-what from the public treasury.

      Candidates who *don’t* reflect the “traditional” way of doing things should be encouraged and supported by all thinking people.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/26/2012 - 08:51 am.

        Question for you, Mr. Tester

        Why should we not demand a greater civic literacy of those who want to be elected to important positions?

        Or are you suggesting that we need to do a better job of educating all citizens? If we did, that would mean the end of the road for the tinhorn buffoons the Republicans are so happy to run these days.

      • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/26/2012 - 09:02 am.

        Yes, what does it matter why things are the way they are or that certain procedures have developed. Kind of like raising a kid (or not). Just let them learn by trial and error and hope they don’t burn the house down.

    • Submitted by Patty Seifert on 04/26/2012 - 10:36 am.

      MN GOP

      Personally, I work to get convservative representation to the State Capitol from Greater MN. And by conservative, I mean conservative in all ways. These representatives need to be prolife, pro 2nd Amendment, and in favor of less governement. If you ask most people, running or not, those questions a lot of them would not know the answers. Generally, people don’t pay attention to things that don’t directly affect them or their families.

      For those who didn’t know the answers, did you do a little education? The candidates I have been dealing with this year may not have known about LGA, PIGS EYE beer, metro council, judicial reform issues, or how Agenda 21 and Shaira Law are affecting MN. They have learned much and are continueing to learn. You need to look for people who realize they don’t know it all and are ready, willing and able to learn. They need to be open to hearing both (or more) sides of issues.

      You must be involved with rather narrow minded candidates plus the delegates and alternates they meet with need to educate them, if possible. Not all candidates know little to nothing, especially after meeting with delegates and alternates.

  8. Submitted by on 04/25/2012 - 08:48 pm.

    good post Broden

    The neo fanatics that have seemingly taken over the Mn GOP would say that in their world you can’t be a moderate progressive and a Republican at the same time. I’m sure one of them will offer a sarcastic comment on your post. Your examples unfortunately were not surprising but were indicative.

    • Submitted by David Broden on 04/26/2012 - 11:13 am.

      REply to comment to Previous Broden Comment Post

      The moderate progressive GOP leaders in Minnesota over the years were real leader who captured to real Minnesota personality– attention to people– attention to education– health care and ensured ecomomic growth. The trend to ideological govenment and signing of pledges has removed those leaders and thoughts. Yes more civic role and activity understanding by all citizens and certainly by those who seek public office is key. Yes again to the citizen legislature approach but in the past the citizens who ran and were elected knew about government and addressed how to make Minnesota a stronger place with a definite vision forward.

      Dave Broden

  9. Submitted by Patty Seifert on 04/26/2012 - 10:42 am.

    detractors run for office!

    If you all think these candidates are soooo baaaaad, why don’t you take the time, money and energy to run for office? Oh, and by the way, people like you can then comment on your position on issues and offer advice of some kind.

    Anyone who decides to be a candidate for a public office should be commended! It is not easy. It is not cheap. It is very hard on family and friends as well as the candidate. Until you acutally run for a State or National office you really don’t have a lot of credibility in my book.

    Have a good day.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/27/2012 - 09:38 am.

      It’s not a middle-school soccer team

      Candidates for office don’t deserve praise for trying their best. If one is willing to run for office–in effect, to ask the people to entrust them to make vital decisions–they and their views should be scrutinized carefully. Yes, people should “comment on [a candidate’s position] on issues and offer advice of some kind.”

      The people deserve fewer candidates who don’t know how state government funcitons, or what the state really does. We deserve candidates who aren’t chosen for their narrow-minded focus on social issues, to the exclusion of other, probably more vital, matters. We deserve candidates who aren’t just going to parrot the evil du jour from Newsmax or FreeRepublic (Area 21! Shariah law!), but who can come up with real solutions to real problems.

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/27/2012 - 11:21 am.

    True conservatives?

    There’s nothing conservative about obliterating the right to privacy and converting every human fertilized egg into a ward of the state, nor is this a “small” government approach to civil rights. There’s nothing conservative about substituting historical fantasy for actual history and misinterpreting the US Constitution. And there certainly is nothing conservative about dismantling a government that both liberals and conservatives has spend 200 years building. Ideological blindness and historical ignorance have nothing to do with true conservatism.

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