Sitting in his St. Paul office overlooking the Minnesota state Capitol, Republican Party of Minnesota Chair Keith Downey says there was a point in his life when, in his “wildest dreams,” he never would have imagined sitting at the helm of a state political party.
Longtime Republican donors Stanley Hubbard and Tom Rosen are mounting a campaign of their own this year. The broadcasting magnate and beef processing CEO are trying to get a vast and complicated web of GOP donors, operatives and activists to march in step when it comes to the 2014 elections.
The wounds had started to heal by the time Minnesota Republicans faced each other at an annual activist gathering in Blaine over the weekend. Many Republicans had already come to terms with the drubbing that took place on Nov. 6, when both Republican legislative majorities and two GOP-led constitutional amendments were rejected by voters.
Brandon Sawalich's abrupt exit from the GOP chair contest -- following his brief arrest for expired license tabs and questions about a sexual harassment lawsuit settlement -- has left the field wide open.
A day after his arrest for driving with an expired automobile registration, the leading candidate for state Republican Party chairman left the race.
Brandon Sawalich, who is widely seen as the frontrunner to be the next GOP party chair, was arrested on Thursday at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for expired license tabs. The 36-year-old senior vice president with Starkey Labs was initially charged with a gross misdemeanor for intent to escape motor vehicle tax.
He's expected to make the announcement official this morning via news release, he said on Twitter late Thursday.
On Dec. 31 Republican activists from across the state will gather in St. Cloud to elect a new party chair. The meeting will cap a tumultuous end to 2011 for the state GOP. Earlier this month Tony Sutton suddenly resigned from the party’s top post. Revelations soon followed that the party is likely more than $1 million in debt.
House Speaker Kurt Zellers is backing Brandon Sawalich for state GOP chair. "Brandon knows that having a strong Republican Party will help all of our candidates from top to bottom," Zellers wrote on Sawalich's Facebook page on Wednesday.
Seifert's endorsement came the same day Sawalich saw two other Republicans rumored to be mulling runs of their own line up behind his candidacy.
Sen. David Hann is not running for state GOP chair. The influential chair of the Health and Human Services Committee is backing Brandon Sawalich for the party's top post.
Sawalich, who made an unsuccessful bid for the position in 2009, announced the news on his Twitter feed this morning.
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