Last week was a big one for the Republican Party of Minnesota.
On the eve of the winter Central Committee meeting, chairman Tony Sutton resigned. As I noted last week, Sutton – and his deputy until last October, Michael Brodkorb – were transitional figures for the MNGOP. Speaking as a D-list pundit rather than an insider, they did a great job of making the party more available, and giving access to the party and its people to the only media they have on their side, the conservative alternative one.
Of course, there was the matter of the budget.
On the one hand, Sutton spent some money. The party is at least a half million in debt.
On the other hand, the MNGOP had a big challenge; in the middle of a terrible economy, to try to beat the DFL…
…well, no. The DFL isn’t really a party anymore. It’s a holding company that manages a brand and farms out the actual work, and fundraising, and spending, to outside groups like Take Action MN and Alliance For A Better MN and Alida Messinger (whose idea of fundraising is reaching into her purse for a checkbook) and Minnesota’s unions (whose idea of fundraising is taking dues from their membership, 46% of whom vote Republican, and giving 92% of it to Democrats). Anyway – Sutton and the MNGOP had to fight against an avalanche of outside and union money. It takes money to fight money.
On yet another hand, at the party level, the spending doesn’t seem to have worked; the GOP lost all of the races for which it was primarily responsible – the State Auditor, Attorney General and Secretary of State races.
On another of those hands, it was sitll a great cycle for the MNGOP brand. Perhaps you recall – we won quite a few races. Flipped the House and Senate. Came within 8,000 votes of winning the governor’s race; I’m convinced there’d be at least 8,001 do-overs for Emmer if we held the election today). It was a good cycle.
Then again, those races were mainly the job of the Legislative GOP caucuses – which did a great job of raising and distributing money effectively, and helping with the campaigns that made such a huge, crucial difference last election and (more importantly) last session.
And on the final hand, if you look at the budget today, it’s hard to tell where the money went, or who we even owe money to. And it’s causing quite a bit of dissent within the party; at last weekend’s Central Committee meeting, the budget – which normally gets rubber-stamped without a lot of thought by a room full of delegates that just want to get out of there – was tabled until a meeting in the near future. And that is going to be a donnybrook, as new Deputy and Acting Chair Kelly Fenton and the remains of Sutton’s Executive Committee face a Central Committee that is laced with dissenters who are looking for solid answers.
And the media just loves it; as the Party airs three years of dirty laundry in public and monday-morning-quarterbacks the 2010 election cycle. (Anyone seeing the wisdom of the DFL’s approach – not really being a party at all – yet? All of this happens in private, in the offices of non-profits that answer only to themselves and their hand-picked boards, with not an iota of elected scrutiny).
The media – which is, now and always, in the bag for the DFL – is going to love this.
And yet the GOP – which, for all its faults, is the only actual transparent political party in this state (if only because nobody, but nobody, cares about the Independence Party) – is going to have to get through some of this BS to go forward.
So – what the hell do we do about the MNGOP, at this fraught and unprecedented fork in the road?
That’s the subject this week.