Republicans vying to keep control

Published 10:22 am Monday, April 4, 2011

Keynote speaker, State Republican Chair Tony Sutton speaks during the Republican Congressional District 1 Convention Saturday at the Mower County Senior Center. - Eric Johnson/

Republicans aren’t content to stand pat after historic gains in last year’s elections. They’re already looking ahead.

“We’ve had success in winning some elections, but we still have a long way to go,” said Republican Randy Demmer, who lost last year in his bid to unseat Rep. Tim Walz.

The Congressional District 1 Convention was held at the Mower County Senior Center to bring together about 250 Republicans from across the district and the state.

Email newsletter signup

Demmer said the GOP needs to work to maintain control in the Minnesota House and Senate while making new goals.

“There’s so much more work to do,” he said.

According to State Republican Chairman Tony Sutton, a key goal moving forward in Congressional District 1 will be to reclaim the district’s seat currently held by Rep. Tim Walz.

“This is going to be a targeted race in 2012,” Sutton said.

Brian Thiel, a member of the Mower County Republicans, said the event was in part a way to celebrate the success of Republicans in the last election.

Obviously we want to consolidate our first time ever winning of both (the House and Senate) of our state Legislature,” Thiel said.

“Some of it’s kind of a celebration,” Thiel said.

The party wasn’t content to revel in a mostly positive election as it set its sights on the presidency, Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s seat, and reclaiming the governorship.

Rather than sitting back, Sutton said the party needs to push a “full court press.”

Sutton said the Minneapolis-St. Paul area will have to be a key campaigning ground for Republicans, as they won victories in much of the outstate areas.

“We’re on the cusp of making this a Republican state,” Sutton said.

Much of the work for the campaigns starts at the local level, Sutton noted. The convention also offered a way for Republicans to look at the current political state, according to Brian Thiel, a member of the Mower County Republicans.

“Every political party has to have their ear to the rail,” Thiel said. They have to see what train’s coming down.”

Charles Mills, Co-Deputy Chair of the Mower County Republicans, described much of the business of the convention as housekeeping, addressing tasks like electing new district officers and a new Congressional District 1 Chairman. The convention is also a good time to begin seeking potential candidates to run for office in the next election.

“With the redistricting that we’re facing, we’ve got to get this organized early,” Mills said.

“This puts the team in place,” added Dennis Schminke, chairman of the Mower County Republicans.

Schminke said he was impressed by the number of state-level representatives and former candidates that attended the event, including former gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, Demmer and many other state representatives.

“It’s kind of like a reunion,” Demmer said of the convention.

Mills said the convention also brought exposure and recognition to the hard work of the Mower County Republicans.

“It gives Mower County exposure for the Republicans as a state organization but also the people of Mower County,” Mills said.

Schminke agreed the convention put local Republicans on the map.

“Sometimes Mower County is not an easy place to be a Republican,” Schminke said.

The Congressional District 1 Convention also served as a time for Republican officials to promote a law to require voters to provide identification at the polls.

Janet Beihoffer, director of the Minnesota GOP’s election operations, stressed the importance of a vote ID law to correct flaws in the state’s voting system.

Beihoffer said the two major flaws are the vouching system and that proof of residency isn’t required at the polls.

“This is just not a Metro area deal,” she said. “This is a problem in some very, very small precincts.”

By not correcting the voting system, she said they’re sending the wrong message to voters.