Hundreds of Republicans activists from throughout Minnesota have gathered in Blaine today for a State Central Committee meeting that will feature a straw poll on next year’s contest for governor and U.S. Senate.
Delegates will vote later on their early preference in each race. There are five announced GOP candidates who want to challenge DFL Gov. Mark Dayton in 2014 (Rob Farnsworth, Scott Honour, Jeff Johnson, Dave Thompson and Kurt Zellers). There are also five candidate who want to take on incumbent Democratic Sen. Al Franken. (Jim Abeler, Chris Dahlberg, Mike McFadden, Monti Moreno and Julianne Ortman).
Republicans will also select a new national committeeman to replace Jeff Johnson.
The first 2014 candidate to speak was Randy Gilbert, who is running for state auditor. He stressed that he is an accountant and that DFL incumbent Rebecca Otto is not.
There will soon be a GOP candidate for Minnesota Secretary of State. A flier distributed at the meeting indicates Dennis Nguyen will have a campaign kickoff on Nov. 10, at the State Capitol. He describes himself as “an articulate, successful businessman.” Nguyen would be the first Republican to enter that contest.
Keith Downey, MNGOP chairman, reported that the state party is “restructured, building and energized.” Downey also told delegate that “real progress” has been made in fixing party finances and eliminating debt.
“I’m glad to report that since April we have paid down $400,000 of debt,” Downey said.
Downey also said the party raised $1.2 million over a six month period through a “healthy mix” of large and small donors.
A report released after Downey’s speech showed net liabilities are at $1.28 million, as of Sept. 30.
Two candidates for national committeeman, Terry Flower and Chris Tiedeman, addressed the meeting. Tiedeman won the vote, 182-156.
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson of Plymouth was the first of the five candidates for governor to speak. Johnson said he is an unapologetic conservative who can win.
“Winning is about choosing a candidate who can make a personal connection with everyday Minnesotans and who can share a positive and compelling and relevant visison to voters,” Johnson said.
State Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, said he will put principle over politics.
State Rep.Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said he is the only candidate who sat face-to-face with Gov. Dayton to prevent tax increases.
Orono businessman Scott Honour said he believes Minnesota is underachieving its potential under DFL leadership.
Hibbing special education teacher Rob Farnsworth stressed his religious faith, and said he won’t be “shamed into silence” by the left.
Johnson won the straw poll with 34 percent of the vote. Second place went to Thompson. Marty Seifert came in third as a write-in candidate. Then it was Zellers, Farnsworth and Honour.
Ortman won the U.S. Senate straw poll with 37 percent of vote. She was followed by McFadden, Shudlick, Dahlberg, Abeler and Moreno.