By Adelle Whitefoot
The Minnesota Republican Party endorsed its first female candidate for the U.S. Senate Friday night at its state convention.
Minnesota Sen. Karin Housley will run in the U.S. Senate special election for the seat that was vacated by Democrat Al Franken. Housley was born and raised in South St. Paul, but her husband’s professional hockey career took her all over North America, though she said Minnesota has always been her home.
“Real Minnesotans need representation, too, not just the metro liberal elites,” she said. “I know I can get things done.”
Housley, of St. Mary’s Point, received 74 percent of the vote in the first round of voting Friday night at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. During her time in the Senate, Housley helped author a bill to impose harsher penalties for those who block highways or public transportation, which was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton.
Housley will likely face Sen. Tina Smith in November, who received the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party endorsement Friday night but may face a primary challenge from Richard Painter. Housley received many cheers and standing ovations when she called Smith a “do-nothing” senator.
“Donald Trump is our president and he nearly won Minnesota for the first time in decades and it’s absolutely ridiculous that our U.S. senator refuses to accept that reality,” Housley said. “The taxpayers of Minnesota deserve a senator that will work with our president to fix our immigration problem, secure our borders, stand up to North Korea, cut our taxes, fix healthcare and protect the sanctity of life.”
Housley’s challengers were small-business owners Bob Anderson and Forest Hyatt, who received 10.5 percent and 14.5 percent of the vote, respectively.
The party also endorsed state Rep. Jim Newberger who will take on the DFL’s Sen. Amy Klobuchar in November. Newberger is in his third term as representative for House District 15B. He has been a paramedic for over 30 years and fought against the light rail project in Minnesota.
While in office, Newberger said he has also fought against the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Commerce and the Public Utilities Commission. He vowed to push back against any agencies who do not have the best interest of citizens in mind.
“(Government) agencies should be working for the citizens, but they aren’t,” he said. “Any citizen who stands up to these agencies gets squished like bugs.”
Newberger spoke in support of the Polymet Mine project, less taxes and repealing the Affordable Care Act. He also spoke out against the federal refugee resettlement program.
“We need to put an end to the current refugee program and stop federal funding for any sanctuary city,” he said, which was met with overwhelming cheers and standing ovations. “Minnesota needs a senator that will stand up for life and not seek to destroy it.”
Newberger received 79.2 percent of the vote in the first round of voting at the DECC. A candidate needs to secure 60 percent of the votes to receive the endorsement.
Newberger was challenged by small-business owner Robert Barnheiser, who was heckled by delegates on the floor and booed at times during his speech for things he said about Newberger. Barnheiser received 18.5 percent of the vote.
Electronic balloting delays convention
The Minnesota GOP State Convention hit a snag Friday night during voting to endorse the first of two U.S. Senate candidates.For the first time, electronic balloting was going to be used at the convention to streamline the voting process and move the convention along. After a few practice votes, convention leaders determined the system was not working properly and then decided to return to paper ballots.
This delayed the convention about an hour, but it didn’t get the delegates down as they danced in their seats and in the aisles to music playing over the speakers, including the “Cha-Cha Slide.”
Minnesota GOP chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan apologized for the technical difficulties, and said the issue should be fixed for Saturday’s governor endorsement.
Electronic balloting is not needed for the state auditor, secretary of state or attorney general endorsements, which are also happening Saturday. A vocal vote can be taken since there is only one candidate for each position.