SLEEPY EYE The Brown County Minnesota Republican Convention showed off the vibrancy of small-town democracy Saturday while allowing area residents to hear from Republican candidates from all over Minnesota's First District.
The convention's crowd of 109 area residents elected 26 Brown County Republican delegates: 13 for the Republican congressional district convention and 13 for the Republican state convention. They likewise selected 26 alternate delegates.
The crowd also voted on Republican party platforms to suggest from the proposals submitted at the February caucuses. Subjects that drew heated debate were proposals to limit the campaign funds a politician could raise, several items related to border safety and reductions to the number of troops stationed in Japan and Germany.
One proposal the drew equal parts confusion, debate and concern stated: "Inspect all Mexican trucks for illegal drugs or aliens to help with the border war on drugs." Several questions were asked on whether "Mexican trucks" were supposed to mean trucks coming from Mexico or truck driven by Hispanics. Brown County Republican leaders could provide little guidance since they are required to present caucus submissions verbatum. Several people raised concerns the proposal violated discrimination laws. Others argued it was important to securing the U.S. border with Mexico. The motion was ultimately voted down.
Besides the local political agenda, candidates from all over Minnesota's First District made an appearance to sell their campaigns to area Republicans.
Allen Quist was the first speaker. He focused on arguing he had superior knowledge of all the topics and bills relevant to the congressional race. He said it was due to his diligence in extensively researching each topic to have a full compression of the issues.
"I actually read the bills. That made me a nightmare for Democrats when I was in the [Minnesota] Legislature. That's why I can win the debate with Walz," said Quist.
Quist showed his credentials by pointing out he was responsible for raising awareness of the "marriage penalty," which is his title for married couples getting less government assistance for health care coverage than unmarried couples under the recent health care overhaul law. Married couples in their 60s who make $60,000 could receive up to $10,425 less than an unmarried couple of the same characteristics. Quist made the unusual move of pointing out that MPR's Poligraph blog rated his claims as factual to emphasize his point. He said he would make pressing First District incumbent Tim Walz on the "marriage penalty" a major campaign focus.
"It has to be dealt with," said Quist. "Obamacare and the marriage penalty will destroy marriage for the middle class."
Sen. Mike Parry, the other potential Republican candidate for the First District, similarly focused on criticizing the health care overhaul law. He said he had a major concern that his children and grandchildren wouldn't see the U.S. as President Reagan's "City on a Hill."
Brown County lawmakers Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-St. James) and Sen. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls) also spoke about their recently started campaigns for the new Minnesota Senate District 16 and Minnesota House District 16B.
Dahms said they had a turbulent year in the Minnesota Legislature, but they were able to change a $5 billion deficit into a surplus. He said the state government shutdown shouldn't have occurred, but he said it was needed to balance Minnesota's budget. He said the better budget year may lead to backfilling some severely cut programs and repayments of the Minnesota schools funding shift.
Torkelson started by explaining he had recently moved into Brown County to run for the Minnesota House District 16B taken out of his home district in the recent state redistricting process.
"Gary Dahms is a great guy. I even moved to Brown County so I could vote for him," joked Torkelson.
Torkelson said he expects the November ballot to have two constitutional amendments, the marriage amendment and the Voter ID amendment. He said an it was important that Republicans don't use constitutional amendments to simply pass legislation around Gov. Dayton's office. He said the two amendments are a good focus and something he supports.
He also said he is working on a potential candidate Allen Anderson for the University of Minnesota Board of Regents to replace Steve Sviggum who resigned. He said he wanted Anderson to be able to provide a rural perspective to the board.
"It will be an interesting campaign," said Torkelson.
Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.