The political pundits expected a crowded field of Republican congressional candidates once Rep. John Kline announced his retirement over a month ago. Now they are focused on why this has not come to pass.
Perhaps the most accepted explanation has become that the job is no longer glamorous, so good people are not interested. There is constant travel and never-ending fundraising. Congress suffers a low approval rating and there is a civil war within the Republican Party. Most sitting office holders and big-name potentials claim they can get more done if they focus on opportunities here in Minnesota.
The second major factor cited is that the Second Congressional District is no longer a safe seat for Republicans. Though Kline could easily reclaim it, this is only because his name recognition garners the support of the significantly large pool of independent voters. Without Kline’s name on the ballot it, it is a tossup district.
If these pundits are correct, then this country is in great trouble. If folks are sitting on the sidelines because, as state Rep. Pat Garofalo so colorfully said, “I’d rather stick a fork in my eye,” then they are not the fighter we need to represent us.
We know that Washington is broken, working only for the political class who can afford access and not working for us, the people. We need representatives who are driven to go to Washington to fight for the reform our country so desperately needs.
Of course, this will not be easy, and it will not be glamorous. There will not be special interest money lined up for candidates willing to fight for the people — in fact, it will be lined up against them.
If you are the standard, go-along-to-get-along, preserve-the-status-quo-and-protect-the-political-class Republican, you know the tide has turned against you. You can see it in what is happening in the Republican presidential race. The special interests will support your establishment candidacy, but you know that, running as an insider, the Second District is truly a tossup race.
Moreover, a status-quo Republican is not going to get the Republican Party endorsement. There has been one of the most successful grass-roots movements in the country in the Second Congressional District, and the activists have become the party. John Kline’s support of party leadership, which did not uphold our principles, provided the impetus for this grass-roots movement and fueled a transformation that has culminated in me being one of only eight congressional candidates, including U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, who has been endorsed by the Madison Project.
The grass-roots takeover in the Republican Party in the district has not been talked about by the news media or the state party. It is scary — it is change — it is a new paradigm in which the people have taken responsibility to hold our representatives accountable and bring much-needed reform to our country.
This is why I am running for Congress and why I was in the race long before Kline retired. Kline, as a six-term congressman and the powerful chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, received the Republican Party endorsement by less than 3 percent over me in 2014. I expect to receive the endorsement in 2016. The endorsement still matters here in Minnesota. It is a special process we must protect that ensures moneyed interests cannot just buy the primary election.
Ultimately, it will be a grass-roots, bottoms-up movement that will enable the drastically needed reforms necessary to get America back on the right track. I am proud to be part of that movement.
David Gerson is a Republican candidate for Congress in Minnesota’s Second District.