A Shocking Upset Victory and Plenty of Controversy Highlight MNGOP State Convention

Everything you need to know about the happenings of State Central.

Preya Samsundar/Alpha News MN

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Hundreds of delegates, politicians, political affiliates, and candidate hopefuls gathered in St. Cloud for the annual MNGOP convention, also known as State Central. In non-year election cycles, state convention tends to be smaller.

Downey’s Last Report

In Keith Downey’s last report as Chairman of the Republican Party, he sent out an email highlighting the strides the party has made in his tenure.

Overhead for the party has decreased by 50 percent, from $100,000 to $50,000 a month. Downey also leaves the new party chair with $920,000 in debt, down 58 percent from the $1.58 million Downey inherited in 2013.

He also leaves Carnahan with approximately $15,000 in the bank account. While Downey inherited a bank account that left the party $633,000 in the hole, the $15,000 is enough for his half of overlap payroll and could maybe cover the rent.

State Chair’s Race a Nail-biter

In the first round RNC Committeeman Rick Rice was eliminated as he won less than 10 percent of the vote. Immediately after giving his concession speech, Rice immediately put on a Jennifer Carnahan shirt.

MNGOP Deputy Chair Chris Fields led the race in the first two rounds of voting. Carnahan pulled ahead of Fields in the third round when Hann was also eliminated.

In the fourth round, Jennifer Carnahan became the second female and first minority elected chair for a major party in Minnesota. In her first speech, Carnahan talked about her parents, who adopted her from South Korea in the 1970’s. She won the race by 57.6 percent to 42.4 percent, more than 15 points.

Fields stormed out of the convention center after the totals were announced and did not return to the floor.

Deputy Chair’s Race a Quick Contest

The deputy chair’s race was decided in two rounds. Candidate Andy Aplikowski spent his allotted time apologizing and trying to explain his decision of not supporting President Donald Trump in 2016.

In the first round of voting, none of the candidates were eliminated. However, Aplikowski got on stage and withdrew from the race, likely meaning he was close to elimination on the first ballot.

David Pascoe, former Chair of CD5 was elected deputy chair of the party with 62 percent of the vote against Jennifer DeJournett.

MNGOP Secretary Returns

MNGOP Secretary Barb Sutter was re-elected secretary of the party. Sutter ran unopposed. She was appointed in 2016 to replace former MNGOP secretary Ryan Love, who moved to Florida.

The Aftermath

No one was more shocked about the upset win by underdog Jennifer Carnahan than the new MNGOP chair herself. Delegates on the floor said Carnahan just hoped to not finish last.

By electing Carnahan and Pascoe, both from CD5, delegates may have decided to hit the reset button. Delegates, many of whom were Trump supporters, sought out two candidates seen as outsiders.

Carnahan went to her first political caucus in 2016. While Pascoe has been in the party for several years, he is part of CD5, a district often ignored by higher ups in the party scale due to its “lack of winnability.”

Many at the convention seemed fed up with the nastiness that was also associated with party elites. Several mentioned the hatred between Hann and House Speaker Kurt Daudt, the contentious relationship between Downey and Fields and others.

Carnahan and Pascoe remained above the fray and brought the most energy to their speeches.

Controversy with Somali Affiliates

There was a brief contentious exchange when Sutter, who oversees the Republican affiliates, asked the delegation to add the Somali American Republican affiliate. One delegate stood up against the measure tying the affiliate to the acceptance of Sharia law.

The delegate was immediately shut down by the majority of the delegation, which voted overwhelmingly in favor of the new affiliate. Abdiaziz Hirsi, a Somali delegate, spoke to crowd telling the group he was an “American and a Republican.” He was met with cheers and applause.

After the convention, Hirsi told Alpha News that he met with the delegate who made the “Sharia Law” comment. They have exchanged contact information and plan to meet in the cities.

Daudt’s Mining Resolution

Daudt introduced a mining resolution that read, “the Republican Party of Minnesota State Central Committee affirms its commitment to support mining and finds that responsible mining of our natural resources has the ability to usher in a wave of economic development across Minnesota.” The delegation resoundingly threw their support behind the resolution and adopted it.

A Kick-Off for Candidates

Candidates for 2018 offices showed up in droves.

Many House candidates like State Reps. Cindy Pugh (R- Chanhassen), Eric Lucero (R- Dayton), and Cal Bahr (R- East Bethel) showed their support for colleague and official gubernatorial candidate Rep. Matt Dean (R-Dellwood) who announced his race for governor last week. Daudt, who is considering a race for governor, was not seen wearing a button.

Ramsey County Commissioner Blake Huffman, also running for governor had a table. As did Harry Niska and Doug Wardlow – two Republican candidates for attorney general. Former candidate Sharna Wahlgren was also seen shaking hands, which increases chatter about her potential run for Attorney General.

U.S. Reps. Tom Emmer and Jason Lewis also made appearances, talking to the delegation about their work in Washington.

The transition of party leadership occurred over the weekend, and Chairwoman Carnahan and Deputy Chair Pascoe began their duties on Monday, May 1.  

Preya Samsundar

Preya Samsundar was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN. She graduated from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities this Spring with a B.A. in Political Science and Sociology, with a minor in Strategic Communications. Preya has previously worked on several State Campaign Races.