Republicans at the GOP state party convention in Rochester did most of what they planned to do Friday — avoiding some hurdles along the way.
After defeating moves to require paper ballots instead of electronic counting and an effort to turn down affiliate representatives — including gay Republicans — the 2,200 delegates approved candidates for auditor, secretary of state and attorney general.
Kim Crockett, a lawyer who has been active in challenging the results of the 2020 election, was approved as secretary of state. Jim Schultz won the approval for attorney general. And Ryan Wilson, the only candidate seeking the party’s approval for the state auditor, was also approved.
Approval requires winning 60 percent support from the 2,200 congressional delegates.
Unlike the DFL, which nominated unapproved candidates for governor in 2010 and 2018, Republican primary voters place high importance on the approvals. In the past thirty years, only once has an unapproved Republican candidate for state office won the party’s primary.
The same convention will endorse a GOP candidate for governor on Saturday.
The faster voter prevails
But first, the convention had to find the answer to that universal question: paper or plastic?
Republican chairman of the state, David Hann, wanted the convention to vote using an electronic voting system used in previous conventions. Each delegate was given a plastic clicker that resembled an old cell phone or a remote control for a VCR. It would allow delegates to vote quickly, reducing the time it takes to go through multiple votes for approvals.
“Approving statewide candidates is one of the most important duties of the state party. It is mainly the reason that explains why we are here today,” said Hann. “If we leave this convention without approved candidates, the value of our approval process will be called into question and our election efforts will be at significant risk of failure.”
The last time a Republican candidate for governor who went unapproved won a primary was in 1994. Whether the approvals would be completed before the convention was required to leave the Mayo Civic Center at 6 p.m. Friday was “in the hands of the deputies,” he said. said.
Electronic counts would be almost instantaneous. Each paper ballot can take up to two hours, Hann said.
“Paper. Paper, paper,” shouted some delegates.
Hann condemned as a lie a claim by the conservative group Action4Liberty that the party used a “Dominion-like” system to run the convention. Dominion has been a bogeyman for Republicans, starting with former President Trump, on unproven allegations of voter fraud in 2020.
“How hypocritical it is to vote electronically,” said one delegate. “If we intend to be the party of electoral integrity in November, we must be the party of electoral integrity today.”
Other delegates, however, defended the equipment, supporting Hann’s claim that using paper ballots would prevent the convention from approving elected offices in all four state-wide elected offices, starting with the governor.
After a 20-minute debate, the clicker option prevailed in a permanent vote.
In one of the tests of the system, delegates were asked how many of the 2,200 were first-time delegates. Nearly 56 percent clicked ‘yes’. Former managers for candidates seeking approval say a more typical percentage is 40 percent. The campaigns that succeeded got the best support from these newly active Republicans and were likely instrumental in motivating them.
If there had been paper ballots, Hann would have moved forward approval for the governor from the end of the agenda. Despite opting for clickers, the delegates then debated whether to give the governor early approval anyway. The arguments for this were the proposition that the governor is the most important race in the state and should be decided with the maximum number of deputies. Those who opposed feared the same, that deputies would not stick around for lower offices of attorney general, secretary of state and accountant.
The first two of those races are highly controversial. Like the governor’s race, candidates seeking the office promise to drop out if someone else wins approval. Only if no one gets 60 percent of the vote can everyone register for the August primaries.
The motion failed, putting approval in the governor’s race on Saturday’s agenda.
Schultz on Wardlow
In a dramatic approval battle, GOP deputies chose Plymouth’s Jim Schultz as Attorney General to face incumbent Democrat Keith Ellison.
Doug Wardlow, who lost nearly 4 percent to Keith Ellison for AG in 2018, led significantly after the first round of voting, but didn’t come close to the 60 percent needed for an endorsement. He entered the convention center with Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow who has been perpetrating false theories of electoral fraud since 2020. Wardlow is MyPillow’s attorney and is endorsed by Lindell.
Schultz was second after the first round, while former state legislator and judge Tad Jude was a distant third. But after the third vote, Jude withdrew from the race and backed Schultz, who came in first on the fourth vote. Wardlow then withdrew, leaving Schultz to get the clearance.
Schultz, 36, previously worked for Dorsey & Whitney investment firm Värde Partners and served on a Hennepin County Capital Budget task force after being appointed by then Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson. He attended Harvard Law School and specializes in regulatory, corporate and compliance law.
Outlining a broad agenda for the conservative grassroots, Schultz said he is an outsider endorsed by the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association. He criticized Ellison for enforcing COVID-19 regulations for businesses and churches while major retail chains were open; said he opposed vaccine mandates and would prosecute voter fraud and support voter identification requirements. Schultz said “organic men shouldn’t compete in women’s sports” and said schools shouldn’t teach “far-left theories.”
“A few elites — be it Keith Ellison or Tim Walz or Joe Biden, the corrupt corporate media or the big technology — are pushing us down our throats with a militant far-left secularism that contradicts what America is,” said Schultz.
Rather than turn over the AG’s office, Schultz said, he would “put a sledgehammer on it,” telling reporters he would give Ellison’s support for Minneapolis’ failed 2021 ballot to call a public prosecutor. create security and eliminate the minimum requirement for officers much of the Attorney General’s campaign.
Wardlow, who has had similar priorities, has come under criticism for not standing for election since losing to a scandal-flagged Ellison campaign, and has since fully embraced Lindell’s false claims about voter fraud. Wardlow claimed he was closer to beating Democrats in 2018 than other Republican candidates for statewide office.
But it wasn’t enough to overcome Schultz.
“The fight against Keith Ellison starts tomorrow,” said Schultz. “We have in the Attorney General’s office the most radical, extreme Attorney General in history.”
Two candidates sought approval for Secretary of State. Kim Crockett, an attorney who has been involved in national efforts to challenge the 2020 election results, defeated Kelly Jahner-Byrne, a former state house candidate.
“I worked hard to stop the train wreck of the 2020 election and examined the wreckage to make sure it never happened again,” Crockett said. After winning the endorsement, Crockett said her efforts affected the party’s governor and attorney general.
“Since day one, I’ve been hammering on the integrity of elections. During the last few months of the campaign it was so interesting that it suddenly sounded like everyone was running for secretary of state,” Crockett said. “They received the memo.”
Ryan Wilson was approved for state auditor, but he was also the only GOP candidate for the office.