Last week veteran GOP activist Bonn Clayton sent out an email to GOP activists across the state announcing the creation of a “voters’ guide” for judicial contests. It directed Republicans to a web site where it stated that challengers Tim Tingelstad, Dean Barkley and Dan Griffith were the party’s “recommended” candidates for the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Clayton signed off on the letter as the “convener” of judicial district Republican chairs for the Republican Party of Minnesota.
But there was one problem: Republicans explicitly voted against endorsing judicial candidates at the state convention in May. In addition, Barkley is a veteran Independence Party activist who has run for office multiple times under its banner.
In response, state GOP chair Pat Shortridge fired off an email of his own clarifying the party’s stance on judicial contests. “This unauthorized ‘voter guide’ contains a number of misleading statements, and you should be wary of any information contained in it,” Shortridge wrote to party activists. “The unauthorized distribution of a guide that advocates for particular candidates (including one candidate with a long history of activism as a member of a different political party and quite liberal viewpoints) and implies that they are endorsed or ‘recommended’ by the Republican Party of Minnesota is improper. It disrespects the decision of Republican delegates at our state convention and improperly uses the party’s brand and resources to promote candidates that have not been endorsed through our grassroots convention process.”
Clayton is unbowed and argues that by utilizing the word “recommended” rather than “endorsed” he didn’t run afoul of the decision by party activists to not back candidates in judicial contests this year. The web site, judgeourjudgesmn.com, is currently dysfunctional, but Clayton says it will return. “The grassroots are 100 percent behind us,” he said. “There’s always been a few people who oppose this initiative.”
He dismissed Shortridge’s email as a “diatribe” and suggested that there are better ways he could be spending his time. “Shortridge ought to spend less time messing around with us and go out there and raise more money,” Clayton said.
David Asp, chair of the state GOP’s judicial elections committee, believes the matter has been adequately put to rest by Shortridge’s letter. “I know there was confusion initially,” Asp said. “The party had to respond I think the way that we did.”