Joe Fraser will run in GOP primary for U.S. Senate; Royce White challenges him to debate

Former basketball star and GOP-endorsed U.S. Senate candidate Royce White called for a debate shortly after learning banking exec and Navy vet Joe Fraser will challenge him in the primary.

Left: Royce White/Youtube; Right: Joe Fraser/Facebook

For the second time in two election cycles, a contentious Republican primary will be held for a statewide office in Minnesota.

On Thursday morning banking exec and Navy veteran Joe Fraser confirmed he will indeed run in the GOP primary this August after losing the party’s endorsement to former basketball star Royce White earlier this month at the Republican Party of Minnesota’s statewide convention.

“After receiving a number of calls, emails, and text messages from folks across Minnesota encouraging me to continue on, I have made the decision to take my campaign to the August primary,” Fraser said in a statement.

That was somewhat of an “about face,” as Fraser admitted that he had indicated prior to the convention he would abide by the party’s endorsement at its annual convention, which took place on May 18 in St. Paul.

“When I began this race in January as a political outsider, I respected and had every intention of honoring our party’s endorsement,” Fraser continued in his primary campaign announcement Thursday. “However, when fewer than half of the elected delegates show up to the convention and signal their support for a candidate with a history of questionable conduct and serious charges levied against him, it was no longer a question about the party endorsement, but about the choice we, as a party, are offering Minnesotans who are desperately seeking new leadership.”

Just a few hours later, White, who won the party’s endorsement by earning votes from two-thirds of the delegates attending the convention, announced he had officially filed for office.

White also took to social media Thursday to challenge Fraser to a debate. And he sparred with a Fraser campaign consultant over the legitimacy of recent claims by critics that some of the items in his campaign finance report from a 2022 primary run for the U.S. House and his court records make him unfit to serve in elected office. Criticism over White’s campaign spending record was triggered last week by an article published by the Daily Beast, which highlighted his campaign’s use of $1,200 in campaign funds at a strip club in Miami a week after he lost his congressional primary.

Additionally, the Star Tribune reported White pleaded guilty in 2020 to a violation of an order for protection filed against him by his then-wife.

White said on X that he and the woman have since reconciled and are now living together and raising their two children.

“The ‘violation’ was not hostile, it was amicable and we were already reconciled,” he said.

“OFPs are often filed and granted in divorce cases,” White added. “We live together now and are raising 2 beautiful children in our home … despite our struggles at that young age. Redemption, Family, these are the things … America!”

White told Alpha News that the campaign spending items from 2022 that have been scrutinized by Fraser’s campaign surrogates and several political pundits are “just an accounting issue,” and that those filings are being amended to reflect they were related to post-primary fundraising expenses. “They were completely legitimate campaign expenses,” White added.

“He doesn’t want to debate,” White said, adding that the two campaigns had been in contact prior to the convention, but Fraser’s team failed to commit when a time and venue were offered by intermediaries.

White also said that those at the convention know who made the biggest impact with their respective speeches to delegates.

“If he thinks he’s got more support out there in outstate Minnesota, he has lost his mind,” White said, referencing his belief that most delegates who didn’t make it to the convention would have committed their votes to him.

Whoever comes out the victor in the Aug. 13 primary will take on Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who has mostly coasted to victory in her 2006, 2012 and 2018 elections.

DFL, GOP primaries for statewide office are common

Both the DFL and GOP in Minnesota share a history of candidates bucking endorsements doled out by their respective state parties in the spring and vying for primary wins in August.

White, a former NBA player turned political activist, has become well-known in some populist and conservative circles in recent years. He won the MN GOP endorsement by capturing two-thirds of the delegate votes cast during the May 18 state convention after he delivered a speech that was praised by many in attendance. In it, he said his campaign would focus on three issues: the border, debt, and forever wars.

Royce White won the MN GOP endorsement by capturing two-thirds of the delegate votes cast during the May 18 state convention. (Alpha News)

White had initially announced he would be seeking the Republican endorsement last August. In February, Fraser, also a political newcomer, announced he would be seeking the Republican endorsement.

Just two years ago, upstart candidate for Minnesota attorney general, Jim Schultz, won the Republican Party endorsement, and later the GOP primary after he was challenged by Doug Wardlow, who was endorsed by the party four years prior.

In 2018, both the Republican and DFL gubernatorial primaries featured fierce battles among candidates. Legislator Erin Murphy received the DFL Party endorsement and went on to lose in a three-way primary to Congressman Tim Walz. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty chose not to seek the GOP endorsement that same year and lost to Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson in the primary.

In 2010, former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton chose not to seek the DFL endorsement and instead put his financial resources into winning the Democratic gubernatorial primary against legislator Margaret Anderson Kelliher.

Alpha News reached out to the Fraser campaign for comment but has not yet received a response.

This article was updated with comment from White. 


Hank Long

Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.