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Minnesota Republican activists have elected longtime operative Pat Shortridge to lead the GOP Party out of more than $2 million in debt and into the 2012 election season.

Pat Shortridge elected as MN GOP party chair

Pat Shortridge (Staff photo: Briana Bierschbach)

Minnesota Republican activists have elected longtime operative Pat Shortridge to lead the GOP Party out of more than $2 million in debt and into the 2012 election season.

Shortridge was elected at the Republican Party of Minnesota’s state central committee meeting in St. Cloud on Saturday with 224 votes, or 66.5 percent on the first ballot. He beat out two challengers: Second Congressional District Chair Terry McCall and activist Todd McIntyre.

McCall finished in second place with 103 votes, while McIntyre collected just 9 votes.

“There’s going to be some work ahead of us,” Shortridge told party delegates after the results were announced, “and I’m going to put you to work.”

Shortridge is a veteran GOP strategist. His recent campaign resume includes working for U.S. Senate candidates Marco Rubio and Dino Rossi. Prior to that he served as both chief of staff and campaign manager for former U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy.

The chair contest followed a pointed discussion of the party’s financial mess. Businessman Mike Vekich and Republican National Committeeman Jeff Johnson, who led an internal financial review, detailed the party’s debts. That includes $1.3 million in unpaid bills directly incurred by the state party. In addition, there is $719,000 in outstanding legal bills stemming from the 2010 gubernatorial recount that the state GOP is likely on the hook to cover. The party is also being asked by a bankruptcy receiver to return $75,000 in contributions made  by disgraced businessman Tom Petters.

Delegates repeatedly expressed dismay at the lack of adequate financial oversight. Jim Taylor, a delegate from the Third Congressional District, asked to see the party’s books. “Where’s the receipts? Where are the vouchers?” he asked. “I want to examine it now. I want to see it all.”

Johnson pointed out that the party has disclosed an unprecedented amount of bad financial news in an effort to make a fresh start. “It’s bad politics; it’s bad for our brand,” he acknowledged. “But we decided it was necessary.”

Following the party chair contest, delegates approved a stop-gap, five-month budget. It includes just $1.4 million in revenues and $1.2 million in expenditures. Secretary-Treasurer David Sturrock, who announced his resignation on Friday night, walked delegates through the budget. It was approved on a voice vote.

Shortridge told GOP activists that he will not accept a salary for his work. He acknowledged that the party faces an extremely difficult task in preparing for 2012 elections.  “We’ve got to walk and chew gum,” he said. “We have to pay down our debt. At the same time we’ve got to invest in critical programs that are going to win elections.”

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