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The statewide straw poll contest gave the most enthusiastic party members just their second opportunity to voice an opinion in either contest.

The Capitol Note: GOP activists pick Seifert, Ortman in straw polls

Julianne Ortman

Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, has defeated Mike McFadden in two GOP straw polls. (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

1.) Republican activists are backing former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert in the gubernatorial race and Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, for U.S. Senate, though the latter has a slightly more robust lead among party insiders. The GOP held a statewide straw poll contest as part of Tuesday night’s precinct caucuses, giving the most enthusiastic party members just their second opportunity to voice an opinion in either contest.

Seifert won the straw poll for governor with 28 percent, edging Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, who finished second with 26 percent. Hennepin County Board member and former Republican Party Committeeman Jeff Johnson took third with 17 percent — a dramatic tumble from his 35 percent first-place finish in a similar October 2013 poll — while Scott Honour (9 percent) and Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, (8 percent) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

Ortman again defeated businessman Mike McFadden, though her margin was smaller than the 15-point trouncing she delivered back in October. This time the four-term legislator won with 31 percent support to McFadden’s 22 percent; Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, got third place with 15 percent, and St. Louis County Board member Chris Dahlberg came in fourth at 10 percent support. Some 16 percent of Republican activists are still undecided as to who they support in that race.

2.) Gov. Mark Dayton picked chief of staff Tina Smith to serve as his running mate this year, confirming the widely reported rumor that his trusted aide would take the place of Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon. Smith has campaign experience as the manager of Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak‘s failed 2010 campaign, but has typically preferred a role outside the spotlight. During the 2013 legislative session, she led the administration’s effort to convince legislators to support funding for the Destination Medical Center expansion of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester; Smith was later appointed by Dayton to the Destination Medical Center Corporation (DMCC), and now serves as its chair. Smith was also a key player in negotiations that led to the state’s decision to fund the Minnesota Vikings new stadium in Minneapolis. GOP candidates Kurt Zellers and Marty Seifert immediately criticized the governor’s choice, claiming the selection indicated the administration’s unbalanced view of the state; both Dayton and Smith hail from Minneapolis. Deputy chief of staff Jaime Tincher will take Smith’s place as top aide to Dayton.

3.) Tuesday night’s precinct caucuses were decidedly less important for the Democrats, bu no less interesting, according to reports that the House District 60B DFL caucus descended into chaos and had to be shut down by Minneapolis police. Longtime legislator Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, is facing a challenge from city school board member Mohamud Noor, and factions from the two sides clashed at the Brian Coyle Center during Tuesday’s proceedings, according to the Star Tribune. After a disagreement over who would lead the process, a fight broke out, leading police to order the building’s gymnasium cleared. DFL Party executive director Corey Day said he could not explain how the caucus became so heated, saying “I have no clue exactly why this transpired.”


  • Rep. Ernie Leidiger, R-Mayer, will not seek re-election in 2014, according to a tweet from GOP activist Jim Sanborn, who explained that Leidiger had announced the news during the House District 47A caucus process. Leidiger is currently in his second term, and easily won re-election to the House with more than 62 percent of the vote in 2012.
  • Legislative leaders including House Speaker Paul Thissen and Senate Minority Leader David Hann are scheduled to hold a 1:30 p.m. press conference that will draw attention to the state’s hosting of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ 2014 gathering this August. The site of the announcement is the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis, which will also host the opening night ceremony of that conference.
  • Jeremy Drucker has joined Gov. Mark Dayton‘s re-election campaign as its new head of communications, according to the Associated Press. Drucker had previously worked in communications with the Department of Human Services; prior to that gig, Drucker held public relations postings with Dayton’s administration and his 2010 election team.
  • Technology consultant and Republican activist Jeff Kolb has announced that he is running for the Crystal City Council. The active and well known Twitter figure also launched a website and Twitter feed dedicated to his campaign.
  • Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota is hiring for a senior financial analyst position that would be based out of St. Paul. The employee would be tasked with leading that organization’s annual budgeting process, and would track the use of grants received from the state and federal government. More information here.

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