Jeff Johnson: Why the GOP Endorsement is right—and why it works

Submitted Editorial by MNGOP Candidate for Governor Jeff Johnson

Jeff Johnson

Why the GOP Endorsement is right—and why it works

There are some Republicans who have been trying for years to eliminate the endorsement process in our Party for statewide candidates, arguing that having candidates go straight to a primary election without the interference of an endorsement is good for the party and ultimately chooses a stronger candidate.

I wholly disagree – in part based on what’s right and in part based on what works.

What’s Right

I believe (or at least hope) the GOP is the party of the common man and woman in Minnesota, not the elite political or donor classes.  Our caucus and endorsement system is a perfect example of that philosophy.  Anyone who believes in Republican principles is welcome to spend a few hours every two years to play a real role in vetting our candidates very up close and personal and choosing the strongest one.

Those who oppose the endorsement would prefer we go the way of the DFL party, which feigns interest in the grassroots every cycle by spending a year in the endorsement process and then completely ignores its outcome.

Republicans, by contrast, have tended to honor the endorsement because we don’t care just about the opinions of Republicans who have the most money, but also of those who walk in parades, knock on doors, pound in lawn signs and win us elections by advocating neighbor-to-neighbor.

The thousands of Republicans involved vet the candidates closely and consider name recognition and ability to raise money, but also look at their background (including any professional or personal baggage that will distract a campaign), skill at casting a vision for the future and ability to inspire rank-and-file Republicans to do the work necessary to win.

What Works

Honoring our endorsement process, however, is not just the right thing to do, it actually works.

Choosing our Republican candidate at the beginning of the summer rather than the end allows him or her to spend the summer raising money for the fall campaign and contrasting a vision with the DFL, rather than spending money all summer to fight other Republicans.

Some will argue that a summer primary can be a positive because it directs attention to the Republican race, but any small advantage this could bring pales in comparison to the immense advantage of us having a nominee for months while the Democrats tear each other apart.

In the past fifty years, there has only been one Republican candidate for governor who survived a competitive primary and won the general election – and that example is an outlier as it was incumbent Governor Arne Carlson who was denied the endorsement in his bid for reelection but still won both the primary and general election easily.

And finally, whether some Republicans like it or not, the endorsement in our party predicts the winner of statewide primaries almost without exception.  My race in 2014 is one of several examples.  I won a hard-fought endorsement battle in May, but was challenged in the primary by three other Republicans.  Two had higher name recognition than me and one had a lot more money.  It was a grueling and expensive race, but I won – because the endorsement rightly continues to matter to Republicans in Minnesota.

The endorsement process—and supporting the candidate who wins it—is critical if we really want to be a grassroots party and if we want to present a united front every November.

I’m stating clearly and publicly that I will not just abide by our endorsement, but if someone else wins it, I will work tirelessly on the campaign trail for them, help them raise money, and do whatever I can to help them win in a primary and in November. I hope that all the other candidates in the race would do the same—it’s our best path to victory.

Jeff Johnson