GOP#039;s state candidates make Austin stop

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 18, 2002

How important was Monday's Austin stop-over for Republican candidates?

Answer: Very important.

That's how Geoff Baker, Mower County GOP Party chair, described it.

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"Austin was the second stop for the State GOP candidates after the state convention over the weekend," Baker said.

The newly-endorsed state GOP candidates visited Austin Monday. On Sunday -- only hours after the marathon state GOP convention at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul ended -- the candidates began a fly-around to Rochester, Duluth and Moorhead.

On Monday, they made Austin their first stop on a three-day bus trip that will stop in 19 Minnesota cities.

House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty received the state GOP party's gubernatorial endorsement.

Pawlenty was being interviewed by Minnesota Public radio and didn't make the trip to Austin. Instead, Lt. Gov. candidate, Carol Molnau addressed the crowd.

Molnau said the Pawlenty-Molnau ticket would

focus on children and education as well as roads and jobs. She said, "This GOP ticket represents the real folks of Minnesota."

Like Molnau, the GOP-endorsed candidate for

State Auditor is a novice to state politics. Pat Awada is mayor of Eagan and a former Eagan city council member.

Awada said her campaign would focus on something she has practiced in Eagan: local control "We need to make as many decisions in government locally," Awada said.

Still another new face to the state GOP ticket is Tom Kelly, the attorney -- not the former Minnesota Twins manager.

Kelly said he is "appalled" by incumbent Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch, whom he accused of being a "publicity seeker."

Kelly spoke more stridently than the other GOP candidates. He said he would strive to return the "highest integrity" to the attorney general's office and be the "people's lawyer."

Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer could claim the title of "senior member" of the GOP team.

Elected to office in 1998, Kiffmeyer said she would continue to work to continue "fair and honest elections" and a user-friendly environment for Minnesota voters

Kiffmeyer praised the county auditors and township clerks, who helped the state record the highest voter turnout in the nation in 2000 and receive an 'A' for election administration.

Also on hand were State Senator Grace Schwab (R-Albert Lea) and Jeff Anderson, an Austin High School teacher, who is running for House District 27B.

Schwab started the theme "real folks," praising the state GOP-endorsed ticket for "addressing common people's needs."

After the GOP Express pulled out of Austin, State Rep. candidate Anderson and Mower County GOP chair Baker discussed the ticket. Both were among local delegates to the state GOP convention in St. Paul last weekend. Anderson said he looks at gubernatorial hopeful Pawlenty and running mate Molnau and sees "candidates who represent the same values in the GOP Party that we have in Mower County."

Baker said candidate for State Auditor Awada is an example of a candidate who can relate to school districts, city councils , township boards and county boards because of her own local government experience.

Even suggesting the GOP's efforts could be thwarted further if Governor Ventura decides to enter the gubernatorial race couldn't rile Anderson or Baker.

And both said making Austin a top priority on the state GOP's barnstorming tour shows how far Mower County has grown in importance to state Republicans.

Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at