From Lincoln to Reagan and beyond

Published 11:45 am Friday, July 8, 2011

Rep. Rich Murray, R-Albert Lea, speaks to Mower County Republicans Thursday night about his willingness to fight for a state budget solution. -- Amanda Lillie/

Republicans celebrate roots, look to party’s future

Although Abe Lincoln and Ronald Reagan couldn’t attend, the Mower County Republicans packed a full house at the Bandshell Park veterans’ pavilion for the inaugural Lincoln-Reagan Picnic.

State Rep. Rich Murray, R-Albert Lea, was one of two guest speakers. He acknowledged the elephant in the room — the state government shutdown — and said he is working with other legislators, and even Gov. Mark Dayton, to solve the state’s budget deficit so Minnesota’s government can be fully functional again.

“We’ve got to get the state back to work,” Murray said.

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He said he is worried the Legislature and governor will get stuck in negotiations if the shutdown lasts for another week because the parties will “entrench themselves further.”

“The word ‘negotiation’ typically means both sides win a little and lose a little,” Murray said. “Both sides have to give a little more.”

Murray spoke one-on-one with Dayton on Wednesday. He told picnic-goers he encouraged Dayton to be the governor who reformed Minnesota and made it better, rather than the governor who shut down the state.

The group of conservatives also heard from Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove. Kriesel shied away from politics, though, and instead shared his story about the day he lost his legs in an explosion during the Iraq War.

The group gave Kriesel a standing ovation after his talk, which brought a tear to more than one eye.

Jennifer Gumbel, co-deputy chair, said the purpose of the picnic was to bring like-minded people together in a less intimidating setting than a meeting room.

“It’s important to have an event where you can meet with like-minded people … especially in a place that’s not historically known as a conservative area,” Gumbel said. “Having Rich and John here was enlightening and a good reminder that the solution … is a bigger issue. We need reform, and that’s their focus.

“These are two guys that really get it.”

Gumbel said the Mower County GOP is trying to reach out to like-minded conservatives and others who may be curious about conservatism by holding laid-back, social events. However, anyone is welcome at the group’s monthly meetings, held at 7 p.m. every third Monday at the Senior Center.