The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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July 27, 2013

GOP primary change welcome

WHY IT MATTERS: Opening up the process to more people rather than select delegates improves chances of electable candidates in the general election

In what could prove to upend traditional Minnesota Republican politics for the last 20 years, we may find GOP gubernatorial candidates battling it out in a primary just like their DFL counterparts.

This goes against a long practiced tradition of the GOP backing endorsed statewide candidates and thereby preserving party unity along with an earlier run in the general election. But that was then and this is now.

Capitol Report outlined the scenario recently by noting that “attitudes toward the endorsement are changing after two statewide GOP-endorsed candidates considerably underperformed Republican expectations." It also pointed out that the Republican Party is strapped for cash and doesn’t have the backing it could provide endorsed candidates.

This actually could prove most beneficial to voters who will have an opportunity to select their party’s representative rather than getting the candidate selected by strict party regulars.

GOP political consultant Ben Golnik posited to Capitol Report “Should 1,200 Republican delegates be the ones who decide who our candidates are? I think, in the last two elections, we’ve seen that shouldn’t be the case.”

Golnik was referring to 2010 when activists had a choice between two different conservatives — Marty Seifert and Tom Emmer. They eventually picked Emmer who lost to now-Gov. Mark Dayton. And in 2012, the party regulars had to pick between popular war veteran Pete Hegseth and Rep. Kurt Bills to go against DFL U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. The libertarians in the GOP threw the backing to Bills who then went on to lose the race carrying only 35 percent of the vote.

While not dismissing the endorsement process, GOP activist Jennifer DeJournett told Capitol Report that “primaries aren’t necessarily a bad thing. It helps you practice your message and fix any bugs you might have before the general election. … With the party slowly recovering, it’s not the juggernaut it was a few years ago.”

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