By Josh Moniz
---- — MANKATO — State Rep. Mike Benson is planning to abide by the Republican endorsement convention in the Minnesota's 1st Congressional District race and not run in the 2014 primary elections.
When the Rochester representative announced his congressional bid in June, he would not commit to following the Republican endorsement process.
By comparison, Byron native Aaron Miller and Blue Earth resident Jim Hagedorn vowed to honor the Republican endorsement when they announced their congressional campaigns this year.
Benson repeated his decision as late as September to Republican activists. But by later October, Benson began informing activists at meetings for Republican county organizations that he reversed his position.
When asked Tuesday about his decision, he said he had initially been concerned that a candidate with very narrow appeal within the Republican Party would win the endorsement. He said he had considered not following the endorsement to ensure a Republican candidate with broad appeal challenged Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Tim Walz of Mankato in 2014.
“With the (1st District) candidate mostly settled, I don’t think it will be an issue,” Benson said. “I believe that all the candidates have broad appeal.”
Benson confirmed he was applying his criteria to both Miller and Hagedorn.
David Thul, chair for the Steele County Republicans and former 1st District Republican chair, said Republican delegates were very concerned about the prospect of Benson running in a primary against an endorsed candidate. He said 1st District activists are still hurting from the bitter primary battle last year between former state Sen. Mike Parry of Waseca and eventual candidate Allen Quist of rural St. Peter. He said Republican activists believe the primary fight was a big factor in Walz winning his re-election.
The Republican endorsement convention for the 1st District is scheduled for April 5, 2014, in Albert Lea.