End of the state GOP as we know it?

  • Article by: JOE REPYA
  • Updated: April 24, 2012 - 8:04 PM
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Pat Shortridge, who grew up in Winona, loved GOP politics from an early age.

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For the Republican Party of Minnesota (MNGOP), 2011 may have ended with a thud, but 2012 is shaping up to be a very bad year indeed. Will the MNGOP survive the one-two-three punch it has taken since the beginning of the year? Some within the party leadership are unsure.

First, the party of fiscal responsibility found out that its trusted and twice-elected party chairman, Tony Sutton, resigned after over-spending nearly $2 million the party did not have. The party, it appears, had no checks or balances on its leader. Since MNGOP is flat broke it has not been able to conduct a forensic audit to see if any inappropriate spending took place.

On Dec. 31, 2011, the party faithful elected a new chairman, Pat Shortridge, hoping, it seems, that he could work some of his Enron lobbyist magic and bail the party out of its financial mess. The party had been under Federal Election Commission (FEC) scrutiny since 2006, when Sutton was the party treasurer from 2005 to 2009. The FEC finally leveled a heavy fine of $170,000 for the period of 2006-2008. The party now faces even more FEC review and possible fines.

And just this week, the landlord of the party's St. Paul headquarters filed court papers to have the GOP evicted for failure to pay rent.

As if all this were not bad enough, with a second punch the party of personal responsibility and family values was rocked by a sex scandal involving former party deputy chairman Michael Brodkorb and his state Senate employer, then-Majority Leader Amy Koch.

After Koch resigned her leadership position, the Senate GOP caucus fired Brodkorb from his position as communications director. Brodkorb has now filed a suit against the Senate for wrongful termination and is threatening to expose lawmakers he claims have had affairs with state employees if they do not settle his demands.

Yet it's the third punch that has many within the strong national defense party wondering if there is any chance for MNGOP to survive the upcoming election in November. In a stealthy, below-the-radar maneuver, most of MNGOP has been taken over by the Ron Paul movement.

It appears that most selected delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa this summer will cast their votes for Ron Paul and not the presumptive nominee Mitt Romney. At my Second Congressional District convention on April 21, Paul supporters openly bragged that they had 45 to 50 percent of the state convention delegates and that they would capture the remaining 17 at-large delegates to add to the 20 they already have.

They also claim they will endorse state Rep. Kurt Bills, R-Rosemount, backed by Ron Paul himself, to run against U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

When asked whether they would support Mitt Romney if he wins the nomination, many Paul supporters said no, unless he selects U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ron Paul's son, as his vice presidential running mate.

That more than anything has the establishment MNGOP in a dither. Rightly or wrongly, they see many of the young, undisciplined and politically naïve Ron Paul movement members as anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-national defense and pro-legalization of drugs. If, as in 2008, Ron Paul fails to endorse the party's nominee and his minions go home, the national GOP will be hard pressed to beat President Obama.

I don't have a crystal ball to see how all this will end. But from where I'm sitting it does not look good for MNGOP, which won the state House and Senate in 2010 and whose lawmakers are all up for re-election.

The DFL smells blood in the water and sees an opportunity to regain both legislative chambers. We are very possibly witnessing the death of MNGOP as we know it. If so, it will have died from within, not from outside causes.

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Joe Repya is a retired US Army officer, Republican activist and former candidate for party chair.

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