Last night, we had our local BPOU convention. This is the second step in the state party process after the precinct caucuses. We heard from a number of state party officials and candidates for office, elected delegates and alternates to the upcoming state and congressional district conventions, and decided which proposed changes to the state party platform--in the form of resolutions--would be passed on to the next level.
The first speaker of the night was State Chair Tony Sutton. He got off to a bit of slow start, but picked up his pace nicely and made some excellent points about how the MN GOP needs to appeal to independent voters if we want to win elections come November. He also said that winning would not be the biggest challenge faced by Republican candidates. Governing according to the principals they ran on would be. He warned that failure to do so and could cause the party to go "the way of the Whigs."
Another speaker was Deputy State Chair Michael Brodkorb. It was good to see the former NARN host again (I believe next year we'll both eligible to be inducted into the NARN Hall of Fame joining Scott Johnson, JB Doubtless, and Atomizer) and Michael was as energetic and engaged as ever.
We heard from a variety of candidates for other offices including secretary of state (which for some reason is attracting A LOT of interest this year), state auditor, the 5th District Congressional seat, and even district court judge. Of course the main event was the gubernatorial contenders and we were "treated" to being addressed by all five candidates still in the GOP race (at least I think there are only five left). Since this is really down to a two man race, we'll focus on Emmer and Seifert.
Tom Emmer's easy-going manner and red-blooded conservative message--which were both in evidence last night--make it hard not to like him. And I certainly will have no problem supporting him come November if he is the party's endorsed candidate. However, in light of the remarks that Tony Sutton made, I have concerns about his ability to appeal to those very independent voters that he will have to win over to win the governor's race.
I've met Marty Seifert a couple of times and heard him speak in the past. He's always come across as a sharp guy with a good sense of humor. For some reason he was off his game last night. He appeared tight and didn't seem comfortable. His delivery was a little fast and his tone a little strident. There wasn't a trace of humor or light-heartedness. Maybe the serious, somber Seifert we saw last night was an intentional image. But if I might be so bold as to offer some advice, he's be better off letting Marty be Marty.
Despite the shortcomings in the style, I actually think there was some good substance in Seifert's speech. At this point, I don't have a foot firmly in either camp, although when pressed I'd say I'm leaning Seifert. Of the last two men standing, I believe he has a better chance to win votes among independents and in outstate Minnesota. If he can lighten up a bit.
Either Seifert of Emmer will be endorsed at the MN GOP State Convention on April 29th-May 1st. Last night, we elected delegates and alternates to this convention as well as to the CD5 convention on April 10th. There were Seifert and Emmer "slates" being passed around, but I'm sure how much impact they had on the voting. By the time we had heard from all the speakers and completed the voting, it was nearly 11pm. The only business that remained was to finish weeding through the resolutions and so I bailed before I had a chance to see the results.
Before I left, I was encouraged by what I heard during the resolutions discussion. There definitely seems to a consensus emerging that the state party platform is desperately in need of an overhaul in the interests of simplification and meaningfulness. There is agreement that there's way too much in the platform already and as a result there was a reluctance to add anything new, especially when it comes to some of the specific pet issues and hobby horses that typically emerge as resolutions. While there is a place for these matters, it is not in the broader party platform. Hopefully, this trend will continue and in the near future we can actually have a clear party platform that serves its intended purpose. I may be a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.
One of the cool things about getting involved in politics at the local level is that you never know who you're going to run into. At the caucuses this year, I met Pete--one of the band of listeners of Hugh Hewitt's radio show who interact via Twitter. Pete was also at last night's convention sitting on my left. On my right was a guy named Andy. After talking to each other on and off for almost two hours we finally figured "who" we were. Turns out he's the proprietor of the Echo Zoe blog and podcast. Echo Zoe is the first blog listed in the MOB (Minnesota Organization of Bloggers) blogroll and Andy's the guy who first it up for us years ago. Thomas Friedman claims to the contrary, the world is not flat, but it's definitely small.
Finally, in the twelve plus years that I've attended BPOU conventions in SD44, this one--in addition to perhaps being the best attended--was undoubtedly the best organized and orchestrated. The venue was first rate. We had a Boy Scout color guard, a well-sung national anthem, large screen video effects, and musical intros for all of the speakers (with the notable exception of Hennepin County Sherriff Rich Stanek who all but demanded that he be welcomed to the stage by Bad Boys next time around). Kudos to all involved for pulling it off.