Republicans were quick to attack Tom Horner after he announced he would seek the Minnesota governor’s office. The Independence Party candidate was a longtime Republican pundit and strategist, and it was easy to see how he might poach more votes from GOP candidate Tom Emmer than DFL nominee Mark Dayton.
During the campaign season, the list of high-profile Republicans who publicly opted for Horner over Emmer steadily grew, and the Republican Party of Minnesota was quick to attack them, too.
Now, following an a election that Dayton won by fewer than 9,000 votes pending the conclusion of recount proceedings, the GOP is going even further to punish those Republicans who dared to throw their weight behind Horner’s candidacy.
On a 59 to 55 vote, delegates at the Republican Party State Central Committee Saturday approved a two-year party ban on 18 prominent Republicans who publicly supported Horner in the election. The vote stops the Republicans from being delegates or attending the Republican National Convention.
The list includes former U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger, former GOP governors Al Quie and Arne Carlson, and prominent GOP donor George Pillsbury. Their support, some say, could have tipped the scale in Emmer’s favor.
Several days after the close vote, some Republican activists defended the move. Sue Jeffers, a talk show host and former GOP candidate for governor, said she would have supported the measure. For Jeffers, there should be sanctions for those who step away from the party.
“Some people thought, ‘Wait a minute, these guys are totally irrelevant so who cares,’ but there should be sanctions for people who do this,” she said. “If you’re with the party, you’re with the party.”
Former Gov. Quie laughed when he was asked about being banned from the Republican Party.
“You’re a Republican if you believe in the Republican principles,” he said. “You don’t have to be sworn in or voted in, so I’m a member of the party.”
On Monday, DFL Party Chair Brian Melendez released a statement about the motion, saying the GOP was “shrinking” its tent.
“The Republican Party of Minnesota has been changing quite obviously over the past several months, but never has their sharp turn to the right been more direct than in this weekend’s vote to ban 18 moderates from serving in their party processes,” he wrote. “The Republican Party has clearly chosen to represent a narrow fringe of ultra-conservatives and exclude the majority of Minnesotans — first in their policy positions, and now in their internal party processes as well.”
Longtime Republican activist Joe Repya agrees. Repya left the party in 2009 after the election of GOP leadership Tony Sutton and Michael Brodkorb, who he called “childish street bullies and thugs.” Repya made a run for the Independence Party nomination for governor this year.
Repya said the move was a “childish and asinine decision on the part of extremely childish and asinine people.
“They should have kept their mouths shut and reached out to these people to pull them back. You ought to be trying to bring them back into the fold instead of driving them away,” he said. “If they want to be a party that wins elections more than on a fluke wave, they have to embrace and follow Ronald Reagan’s example of building a big tent, not a pup tent.”
Here’s the full list of banned Republicans:
(H/T Tom Scheck, MPR)