The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 27, 2012

Republicans still deciding how 1st District convention will proceed

By Mark Fischenich
The Free Press

MANKATO — Southern Minnesota Republican leaders won’t be dealing exclusively with “when do we meet?” and “where do we meet?” when they talk about scheduling a continuation of the epic congressional endorsement battle between state Sen. Mike Parry and former state Rep. Allen Quist.

“Do we really want to do this?” will also be part of the discussion, said Dave Kruse, chairman of the 1st District Republican Party.

“That will be up to our Central Committee that will authorize an endorsing convention,” Kruse said of the 50-plus members of the panel in charge of the 1st District Republican Party. “It may well be that they decide not to have an endorsing convention.”

More than 300 delegates and alternates from throughout southern Minnesota spent 14 hours on Saturday and early Sunday at the Kato Ballroom trying to settle on a candidate to run against Democratic Congressman Tim Walz.

Party rules require a candidate to receive 60 percent support from the delegates to be endorsed. When the delegates voted just after noon on Saturday, Parry received 54 percent and Quist 46 percent.

So they voted again and again and again and again. The candidates worked the delegates, trying to sway more to their side. They gave speeches. Supporters of each side paraded around the ballroom, waving signs and shouting cheers.

After 14 hours and 22 more ballots, Quist had 52 percent, Parry had 48 percent and the Republicans had run out of time. The Kato had to close at 2 a.m.

With just minutes remaining, a delegate proposed adjourning but instructing the Central Committee to call another convention  “in two to three weeks” to finish the job. The idea was approved by a 131-108 vote of the delegates remaining — down from 282 when Saturday’s convention convened more than 17 hours earlier.

Kruse wants to do everything possible to honor that request, but he’s offering no guarantees. A majority of the Central Committee may decide — for practical and strategic reasons — to let voters in the Aug. 14 primary election settle the matter of whether Parry or Quist should move on to the Nov. 6 face-off with Walz.

“The delegates’ will is what really drives what I do,” Kruse said.

But the Central Committee, with representatives of all the counties contained in the sprawling 1st District, was elected by Republican activists to decide the best interests of the party, he said.

“That, too, represents the will of the delegates of our district,” Kruse said.

Peter Trocke, co-chairman of the Nicollet County Republican Party, wants the committee to schedule another convention.

“I think they do have an obligation,” said Trocke, who feels the delegates were perfectly clear in expressing their desire to continue the convention at a later date. “That’s what they stated.”

Carol Stevenson of North Mankato is on the Central Committee and agrees that the delegates’ instruction should be followed if it can be done in a reasonable amount of time. But the committee also needs to follow party rules, which require 10 days notice before the committee can meet and another 10 days notice to delegates after a time and place for a second convention is set.

That already eliminates May 12, an early favorite for Parry-Quist Part II. The following weekend is out because that’s when the Republican State Convention is being held in St. Paul. Memorial Day weekend comes next, a time when most delegates likely have plans.

The next Saturday is June 2.

“Logistically, it’s a pretty good date,” Kruse said. “I’d say that’s probably a fairly likely time frame for us. But again, that’s something that our Central Committee will have to, together,  decide on.”

Candidates for congressional races must file their candidacy by 5 p.m., June 5, so June 2 is pushing up against that deadline. But with their ability to do another round of voting every 30 minutes or so, the delegates could probably restart their convention Saturday morning, settle on a candidate on ballot 180, and still get their endorsee to the Secretary of State’s office by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Nobody actually expects the stalemate would continue quite that long — another 20 rounds of balloting would shatter endorsement-marathon records in Minnesota for either party — but the delegates were remarkably determined to get an endorsement last weekend.

“That’s basically what we were hired to do,” said Trocke, who wants to try again on June 2. “I don’t know, unfortunately, if the results will be any different.”

It may depend on how many of the original 282 delegates show up at a second convention. High school and college graduations, weddings, town festivals — the potential scheduling conflicts are almost endless for a Saturday in June.

“You could have a whole new dynamic of delegates,” Trocke said. “That’s the only way I think we’d have a different result.”

Stevenson said she wants the convention to happen “if it can be done in a short period of time.” As far as whether she believes it will be fruitful, she’s not saying.

“My personal opinion doesn’t matter,” Stevenson said. “My job is to do what the delegates asked me to do.”

Kruse shares a similar opinion. He’s not offering a prediction, though, on whether the majority of Central Committee members feel the same.

“Feelings are very mixed right now,” he said.