RNC Committeeman Rick Rice Seeks to Capture MNGOP Chair

Image Credit: Preya Samsundar/Alpha News MN

MINNETONKA, Minn — Minnesota’s Republican National Committeeman (RNC) Rick Rice seeks to become the next State Party Chair of the Republican Party. Delegates at the GOP State Central Committee Meeting in April will elect someone to replace current chair, Keith Downey.

Alpha News MN is introducing you to each of the candidates for Chair. We asked them to answer a list of questions about their ideas for the future of the GOP. This is how candidate Rick Rice responded.

Rick Rice can be compIMG_1510ared to the Robert Redford character in the 1972 film The Candidate. He’s idealistic, charismatic, and the ultimate people’s person. Rice has held multiple positions within the Republican Party and currently serves as Finance Chair of the MNGOP, Committeeman for the RNC (Republican National Committee), and has been involved in multiple local level races and events.

Rice is a raconteur and personable. He puts people at ease with his jokes and anecdotes. His experience volunteering for local campaigns starting from the age of 10 – putting Nixon bumper stickers on cars leads to out-of-the-box thinking to raise resources for his party. He’s dedicated to his cause. Rice sponsored a highway in his hometown of Orono, MN that simply reads “Read: USA Constitution, Bill of Rights – Rick Rice.”

How does the Republican Party of Minnesota continue to be the Party of fiscal responsibility when it has significant State and Federal debt?

“Our ship hit the rocks, we took on a lot of water, but we’ve righted the ship and have solid footing. However, we can’t get to the next level if we cannot get away from the past. The past is still lingering as an ugly shadow as it hits us at the core. However, we need people to donate. Unless they are switching parties, this is their home. We have the PCR’s (Political Contribution Refund) scheduled to return this summer. So basically, the Democrats will help us pay off the state debt. They’ve got to love that. Then you have the tax return check off.  I have been working to find 5,000 people to kick in $10/month. We just have to ask. Once, you do that, you have less dependency to rely on big donors when we are short for the month. Many hands make for light work.”

How do you plan to rebrand the party to make it more inclusive?

“Democrats love to play the race card because they have no working original ideas. I’m your average white guy. I’m an Irish-Catholic kid from the west suburbs. We need to engage with the Hmong and Somali communities. I have had two meetings with Somali leaders.We are going to continue work and develop that relationship over the next two years and beyond to help them overcome the DFL messaging and the government paychecks [they receive] for staying on the Democratic side. There is absolutely no room for racism in the Republican Party and if they feel this way, then I don’t particularly want them in this party anyways. They can go over to the DFL, they are the real racists in our society.”

How do you plan to change traditional democratic strongholds?

“Boy, that’s a good question. I’m going to pull together the best minds in the Republican Party and come up with a blue ribbon gameplan. As our illustrious governor likes to say, and he’s right, none of us are smart as all of us. So we will bring in the best minds and figure out how to penetrate Ramsey and Hennepin Counties. Generally CD’s 5 and 4. We don’t need to win them, we just need to increase our percentage. Everyone knows if you get CD5 north of 28% you win the State. There are things that can be done with data to identify and understanding who you are speaking to. Door knocking, mailing, so you can mail the correct pieces to the right folks that you know they will respond to.”

Why are you running for State Party Chair?

“I like to jokingly say it was because my liberal sister dropped me on the head as an infant. Or maybe it was the 25lb rebar I dropped on my own head in 2004 pounding signs for [President] George Bush. This party is so close to turning this state red. We are on the edge. It will be critical to move the best of Keith Downey and move it forward and make the changes and tweaks along the way we need. Keith [Downey] is a very talented guy in laying out strategic plans and there is no reason to change the best of that. My administration will take the best of that and amplify it and build out the party structure.”

How does your previous experience working on campaigns and working with the grassroots help you identify with local-level activist and how would you use that going forward?

“It’s a high-spirited environment with positive emotions going on and you develop those strong relationships. You bring in each new wave as they come into the party and welcome them in. First, it was the Ron Paul folks. Going back to the 1960’s it was the Barry Goldwater people, then the Ronald Reagan conservatives that were not part of the establishments. Then it was Rand Paul, the Tea Party, and now the Trump people. There are bits and pieces of each organization and entity that I like and admire and I can identify with what is positive about their movements. Yeah, that’s absolutely Republican, it is why you are leaning Republican. So when you bring on the Ron Paul folks and welcome them into the party, you help them recognize the challenges and opportunities of running a party, Also, the challenges of working with other people towards a common goal. It’s all about relationships.”

Should you be elected, you face a very tough road ahead. You have a party that has over $1 million in debt, a skeleton staff, a remarkable statewide win you’ll be expected to replicate in 2018, and just two years to run effective campaigns for mayoral races in Minneapolis/St. Paul, a U.S. Senate race, eight Congressional races, State Representative races, statewide constitutional races, a Governor’s race, and a potential special election. Where do you begin?

“By drinking a lot of coffee. When you stack it up like that it sounds like a lot of work, maybe I should reconsider.  It all comes down to finance. If you cannot build out your staff so you can provide candidate services, there is not much you can do. Data costs money, staff costs money, candidate services cost money. Bottom line is, when you are being drained $15,000/month roughly with debt service and you have other overhead – like physical overhead that may be a bit excessive beyond your means, you need to make changes. We have a three-year lease on the property so we aren’t going anywhere for 36 months. We will look into that and is it cheaper to break a lease and move somewhere else, or it is less disruptive in the short-term.”

Despite Minnesota coming as close as it has been in the last 30 years to voting Republican in a presidential race, Stewart Mills lost the eighth and many local candidates did much better than Trump in their districts. Do you think there was a Trump wave?

“Absolutely. We rode that wave to increase our profile in the House, again with Anne Neu’s election and then taking over the Senate. We should have had another 3-5 seats in the Senate. The inner city didn’t help us as much. Then again, we had some pretty decent turnout in Minnesota. I believe we can rely on voters who voted for Trump to vote Republican again. We will do our best to reach out to them that’s part of the data management to identify those who are Trump voters, so when messaging to them via direct mail, email, or social media, you draw on the strengths that we have in common and not the differences. We need to focus on that kind of messaging to make them feel welcomed and feel part of the team.”

Alpha News will introduce the last candidate for State Party Chair, Jennifer Carnahan.

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.