Minnesota Republicans gather this weekend at their State Central Committee meeting at the Ramada Mall of America. Tonight will feature good cheer at a variety of hospitality suites. The frivolity will give way to what’s expected to be a long day of intra-party politicking on Saturday.
With top party leaders Tony Sutton and Michael Brodkorb coasting to re-election, the drama will unfold over elections to replace retiring Republican National Committee members Brian Sullivan and Evie Axdahl.
The winners of both contests need a simple 50-percent majority vote. There will be a maximum of 349 delegates, which consist of 300 who were selected at BPOU conventions, 24 at-large delegates from congressional districts and 25 at-large delegates from affiliated groups.
Last year’s GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer is loaded up with endorsements from the likes of former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann to succeed Sullivan. His chances were bolstered further when GOP operative Ben Golnik dropped his bid. Standing in Emmer’s way is Hennepin County commissioner and former state representative from Plymouth Jeff Johnson.
A couple of GOP activists have pointed out in recent weeks that Emmer raised eyebrows by lobbying for Minnesota Radiation Oncology Physicians. His association with the radiation oncologists puts him on the opposite side of votes he took as a state representative regarding a long-standing fight over the moratorium on construction of new radiation centers in the Twin Cities and Duluth. He also roused some consternation by appearing on air with conservative talk show host Sue Jeffers, who has lambasted House Republicans on fiscal issues. On the other side, Johnson has taken heat from Emmer and others that that he didn’t work hard enough for Republican candidates last year, including the gubernatorial ticket.
It appears that Emmer has the upper hand. But it remains to be seen how many of Emmer’s pledged supporters will remain in his camp when the balloting starts.
Several candidates are vying to replace Axdahl. Former State Auditor Pat Anderson is running a hard-charging campaign and is expected to register the most support on the first ballot. But she’s got competition from former 2nd Congressional District GOP chair Janet Beihoffer, St. Paul Republican activist Mary Igo and Shakopee City Council member and VOICES of Conservative Women co-founder Pamela Punt. “Pat creates an aura of inevitability with some degree of success. But she doesn’t have a majority going into this. The second ballot will be key,” one Republican insider said.