GOP presents unified front at conventionPublished 10:29am Monday, April 7, 2014
Cohesiveness. Unity. Support.
Aaron Miller, a hospital account manager from Byron, won the GOP nomination to face U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, DFL-Mankato, but that was only part of the story Saturday.
The Republicans who came to the 1st District Convention in Albert Lea on Saturday noticed a party more unified than it was two years ago in Mankato, when in-fighting among two candidates led to a sharp party divide.
At Southwest Middle School, candidates spoke of how the need to win elections trumped divisions within the party.
Miller said he was excited about the atmosphere at the convention, the culmination of eight months of work for candidates and party leaders alike.
“We need to show party unity coming out of this convention,” Miller said.
First District Chairwoman Carol Stevenson said having three candidates — all of whom agreed to abide by the party endorsement and “all three so equal in positions” — made a difference.
Candidate Jim Hagedorn, a Blue Earth businessman, said the party is more focused on defeating incumbent Democrat Tim Walz, a Mankato teacher, than in defeating each other.
“I feel real good about the party coming together,” Hagedorn said.
That came into play the moment after the second ballot that congressional candidate Mike Benson, a state senator from Rochester, dropped out of the race. He had been in third place on the first two ballots.
Convention co-chairman Jim Hahn told the delegates, “That was one of the classiest moves I’ve ever seen,” and called for a round of applause for Benson.
He noted the hours that Benson and Hagedorn had put in campaigning for the nomination, then they simply stepped aside for the sake of party unity.
Minnesota Republican Party Chairman Keith Downey told the convention he remains bullish about the future and retaking several offices held by the DFL Party — governor, secretary of state, senator and 1st District representative.
He spoke of righting the Minnesota Republican Party’s finances, such as $200,000 saved in operations costs and $600,000 in debt repayment.
He called for bringing grace and humility in deciding party candidates and setting “a new ground game” for winning.
“Let’s have our own internal standard be higher,” Downey said.