The GOP endorsement standard felt another small blow on Tuesday.
St. Michael City Councilman Kevin Kasel, a candidate in House District 30B, announced that neighboring GOP Reps. Marion O’Neill and Nick Zerwas had endorsed his primary run against GOP activists’ chosen candidate, Eric Lucero.
Kasel entered the race for the Wright County seat in late April, a couple months after Lucero nabbed the party’s endorsement from sitting Rep. David FitzSimmons. Lucero ran his campaign up to the convention hammering FitzSimmons for being one of four House Republicans to vote for the legalization of gay marriage in 2013. O’Neill has publicly campaigned for Kasel since he entered the race.
A four-way primary among GOP candidates for governor, a two-way primary for US Senate and a largely unheeded call from RPM chair Keith Downey for party officers who don’t support endorsed candidates to step down point to a weakening of the Minnesota GOP’s traditionally strong endorsement process. In the uber-conservative 6th Congressional District, where endorsements are king, the Wright County GOP isn’t helping Lucero.
And from Tuesday, add on two state legislators to the opposing heap for good measure.
But there’s likely a personal tinge to their support of Kasel over Lucero in 30B. Many lawmakers at the GOP state convention could be seen wearing buttons that read “Fitz” in solidarity for their colleague, who withdrew from the endorsement race when he concluded that he could not win. Lucero got the votes of 74 percent of delegates supporting him on the first ballot of the endorsement process in February.
Zerwas, reached on Tuesday, said it wasn’t a difficult decision for him to support Kasel. He said Lucero “burned a lot of bridges with his techniques and his approach.”
“Running in a contested Republican primary in this part of the state against an endorsed candidate isn’t an easy task,” Zerwas added. “It’s a heavy lift, and we’re fortunate that Kevin was willing to do that and take that upon himself.”
Among other endorsements Kasel announced on Tuesday were members of the Albertville and St. Michael city councils, as well as two Wright County commissioners. Lucero, a Dayton city council member, notes two endorsements on his campaign webpage: one from Judy Beaudry, his campaign treasurer, and one from Andy Hybben, his campaign chair.