Turmoil Erupts in MNGOP Chair Race Days Before Election

Days before the MNGOP State Central Meeting in St. Cloud, in-fighting amongst Party ranks has spilled into new territory.

Image Credit: Republican Party of Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS — With six days remaining before delegates congregate in St. Cloud to choose the Minnesota Republican Party’s next Chairman or Chairwoman, a memo sent last week to members of the State Central nominations committee and select others made its way around various MNGOP circles.

Republican Party Chairman Keith Downey sent the 32-page memo on April 21, detailing faults with his Deputy Chair Chris Fields.

The 2-page memo and the 30-pages of attachments that follow show a side of Fields many party insiders have already seen.

“Given the nature, extent, and duration, these facts have a direct applicability to the role of Party Chair, and are presented to the Nominations Committee for your consideration,” Downey writes.

Fields’ concentration is unaffected by the memo.

“I’m focused on talking to delegates. Everything has been known and they [delegates] are happy with me,” Fields told Alpha News.

Downey cited several instances where Fields’ actions made it into the press. Including his comments against U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis before the CD2 endorsing convention, and a social media rant documented by WCCO and City Pages about Fields’ comments about the death of Robin Williams. He also notes Fields’ comments at the 2016 MNGOP state convention, “We may hate each other, but let’s hate them more,” which Downey described as “contradicting to the unifying message of Donald Trump’s surrogate, Congressman Kevin Cramer, ND, and no surprise, his was the only quote from a Party Officer reported by the press after the convention.”

Downey included an email sent by Fields in recent weeks asking the outgoing Chair to not get involved in the current Chair’s race. Fields shared a quote by Gen. Mattis by email which reads,  “I come in peace, I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes; If you f— with me, I’ll kill you all.” Fields goes on to state, “I am not threatening acts of violence,” before “pleading” with Downey and MNGOP Treasurer Bron Scherer to not get involved in the chair race, asking them to, “Try having confidence in other people even if you don’t agree with them.”

“No one is perfect. Everyone gets to have a voice,” Fields told Alpha News, “That’s what I like about our country, we get to participate. I won’t tell people how to participate.”

Fields notes Downey has had his bad days in the press as well, noting the forced removal of Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Michelle MacDonald from the MNGOP State Fair booth and not getting Trump on the ballot, both of which, Fields states, cost the party in legal fees.

The brooding discontentment and overall tumultuous relationship between chair and deputy chair has been an underlying topic within Republican circles since Fields and Downey were paired together in 2014. Downey’s memo references some of the underlying tension stating, “other issues which could be construed as a difference of opinion and not objective fact have not been included.”

“I would have preferred if Keith [Downey] had just endorsed [David] Hann or [Rick] Rice,” Fields told Alpha News, “At least we would have known what side he was on. It would have been more positive that way.”

Downey also takes aim at Fields record at fundraising, writing in one email, “$35,000 a year is spent on a largely unproductive effort,” in reference to Field’s performance. Some on social media note fundraising is the responsibility of the Chair, not Deputy Chair. However, Fields contests the legitimacy of these statements.

“I have generated $160,000 for this party,” Fields told Alpha News, “In Duluth [2016 State Convention], I showed I raised $96,000 in the Deputy Chair’s report, and that was accepted. Since then I’ve brought in $65,000.”

Downey’s memo came to light on Saturday when Crystal City Councilman, Jeff Kolb, was a guest on Brad Carlson’s show on Northern Alliance Radio.  

While on the show Kolb discusses Downey’s attempts to remove the salary position from the Deputy Chair role. A statement Downey reiterates in one email attached to the memo where he wrote, “Our debt could literally be $100,000 lower right now if my recommendation 3 years ago to not compensate our Deputy Chair had been adopted.”

But Fields claims he holds no ill will towards the outgoing chair.

“I understand he [Downey] wishes to run for Governor. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors,” Fields said, “If I’m the chair and he wins the endorsement, he can know that I will do everything I can to push him across the finish line.”

Requests for comment by Downey and the Republican Party of Minnesota were not returned in time for publication.

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.