Sunday, February 23, 2014

MN-LEG: Week 1 of BPOU conventions

A first wrap-up of conventions around the state. I will have more on intra-party contests in the coming weeks, followed thereafter by a look at the general election playing field. Cross posted at Red Racing Horses. 

30B: Freshman state Rep. David FitzSimmons losing re-endorsement over his vote for gay marriage to Dayton (pop. almost 5k) city councilor Eric Lucero.

I was very disappointed in former state Rep. Phil Krinkie's misleading letter attacking David FitzSimmons; it appeared to be motivated by the fact FitzSimmons works closely as a consultant with Tom Emmer, Krinkie's primary opponent in MN-06. Similarly, literature from the Family Research Council tying FitzSimmons to out-of-state donors connected to Tim Gill (who has built a very impressive operation with the Gill Action Fund) was also misleading, when you realize David FitzSimmons gave most of his 2013 fundraising away to other Republicans (he raised $25k in 2013 and gave $25k to various Republican Party affiliates, including the HRCC, CD 6, and Wright County GOP). The FRC financed many of the anti-FitzSimmons pieces and pro-Lucero pieces at the convention, and the organization managed to claim victory.

FitzSimmons gave a speech rebutting many of the charges his opponents had leveled against him, but the outcome was already clear. FitzSimmons made his name counting delegates for Tom Emmer in 2010 and Kurt Bills in 2012, and he did not have the delegates this time. Instead, he withdrew from the contest at the conclusion of his speech (he had already pledged to abide by the endorsement). FitzSimmons was the rare Minnesota Republican who bridged the factional divide in the party, boasting a libertarian voting record while supporting Republican efforts more generally.

Lucero won on the first ballot with 74% of the vote. Either way, this is a safe Republican seat. I had this seat as Likely Lucero before Saturday and that prediction was borne out.

Full disclosure: The political fund I operate, the Youth Leadership PAC, received two contributions from state Rep. David FitzSimmons.

31A (R): Minority Leader Kurt Daudt won re-endorsement on the 1st ballot with 62% of the vote against Oak Grove (pop. 8k) Mayor Mark Korin. I already wrote at length about the contest here. A dispute between Isanti (ie, supporters of Daudt) and Anoka (ie. supporters of Korin) Republicans led to the caucus location and date being contested. State party chairman Keith Downey weighed in by putting the location in Isanti and moving the endorsing convention to Feb. 22nd (they will have to meet again to elect delegates). Daudt is now free to continue working on fundraising and candidate recruitment for 2014; Republicans need to flip seven seats to retake the state House. I had this race at Likely Daudt before Saturday and the result reflected that prediction.

58B: RINO-hunters did not fell an incumbent here. The surprising result is that Rep. Pat Garofalo faced absolutely no challenger after voting for both gay marriage and the Vikings stadium. Whispers floated of an endorsement challenger all the way up until Saturday, but in the end none of the whispered names opted to throw their hat in the ring. Garofalo is riding a fundraising wave from his gay marriage vote, raking in over $53k in 2013. Garofalo will coast to re-election in the primary and general election.

MN-02 (R): I know less details on this race, but the buzz I am hearing from Goodhue and Scott Counties and SD 58 is that Rep. John Kline is in the driver's seat. His opponent, Ron Paul supporter and engineer David Gerson, pledged to abide by the endorsement and built his campaign around getting it. However, conventions in MN-02 this weekend put the Kline's efforts on wrangling delegates on full display; the Gerson campaign may be having a hard time getting delegates to turn out. The Kline campaign is finally recognizing they have to play at conventions; if the 2012 delegate population fueled by the Ron Paul campaign had returned in 2014, this endorsement race would look very different. If Gerson can't win the endorsement, there is no path to victory for him (and even if he did, he would still be a decided underdog to the cash-flush Kline in an expensive primary). This primary is Safe Kline at this point.

MN-GOV; MN-SEN (R): It is still too early to say how the delegate population to state will differ from the precinct delegates who supported former state Rep. and Minority Leader Marty Seifert and state Senator Julianne Ortman. My general hunch is that businessman and fundraising king Mike McFadden will have more delegate strength at the state convention than he had in the straw poll, while Seifert is in a strong position if he can get outstate delegates from MN-07 to show up in Rochester. However, in the next two weeks we should have a better idea as the who's who of state delegates starts getting out to the campaigns and the fun work of IDing their allegiances begins. This work is just plain harder when public slating is not a thing (like it was in the 2010 gubernatorial race and in many cases in the 2012 presidential race).

64B: Nothing of note here, but I wanted to point out this will be how most people's BPOU conventions play out. We had no major feuds in my BPOU. A candidate for MN-04 who is exploring a run, lawyer Sharna Wahlgren, gave one of her first public speeches (she used to work for former US Senator Rudy Boschwitz (R) and is an unusually strong candidate for a safe DFL seat). We elected delegates with no slating, likely producing convention votes for all five viable gubernatorial candidates. Many of the delegates went out to eat for lunch afterwards. That narrative does not produce an intra-party feud worth covering in the Star Tribune, but papers like the Strib should stop and put the "convention wars" in perspective every now and then (not that I expect such behavior from them).

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