Minnesota GOP sees congressional nomination chases spill into summer after weekend conventions

Published 5:22 am Tuesday, April 30, 2024

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By Mark  Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio News

Minnesota Republican delegates to weekend conventions denied a U.S. House incumbent the endorsement for a new term and will have a second key race also head to a decisive primary after the better-funded candidate pushed ahead without the official GOP activist backing.

The outcomes in the 7th Congressional District — where U.S. Rep. Michelle Fischbach is seeking a third term — and in the 2nd Congressional District that is deemed a pickup opportunity for the GOP underscore lingering fractions within the party over its future direction.

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The stakes are likely highest in the 2nd, which is a nationally watched race in the broader fight for House control. The district stretches from the southern Twin Cities suburbs down into rural areas.

At the district’s GOP convention in Lakeville over the weekend, two Republican attorney’s sought party backing. One of them, Joe Teirab, recently backed off a pledge to exit if he got beat at the convention.

During the convention, rival candidate Tayler Rahm underscored his intent to honor his endorsement pledge and ripped Teirab for breaking his signed commitment.

“I will prove that I’m not just another politician who will look you in the eye and lie to you over and over again with no shame,” Rahm said. “Instead, I will honor my word.”

Rahm easily won a first-ballot endorsement with nearly 75 percent of the vote. But to make it to the November ballot, Rahm will have to defeat Teirab in the mid-August primary.

Teirab has far more money stocked up and insists he’s got a better shot of defeating DFL Rep. Angie Craig than Rahm.

“Right now in our country sadly and in our states Joe Biden and Angie Craig and the left are attacking what this country was founded on,” Teirab told the convention before losing the endorsement.

The continuing Rahm-Teirab showdown could cause divisions among 2nd district Republicans well into summer — at the same time Craig steps up efforts to appeal to swing voters in the district covering several suburbs and more-rural areas.

“The Second District is always going to be competitive,” said Craig of her reelection effort. “It’s just that kind of district where, you know, independents decide the election. It’s about equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans over here and it’s a very independent minded district.”

But Rahm said like Craig, he too will be focused on this fall’s general election not the summer Republican primary.

“Well, obviously having a primary doesn’t do anyone any good on the Republican Party,” Rahm conceded, “But my opponent is Angie Craig. That’s what I’m going to be focused on well we’ll drive over that speed bump in August if need be and win the primary.”

Republicans in western Minnesota will also have a congressional primary. That’s the 7th Congressional District that Rep. Fischbach has represented for two terms.

At their convention, delegates deadlocked instead of backing Fischbach, who’s running with former President Donald Trump’s endorsement. Fischbach led in the convention balloting but didn’t clear the threshold needed to secure it.

Business owner Steve Boyd considers the lack of an endorsement a win for his effort to defeat Fischbach in the August primary in the heavily Republican district. He says Republicans need to chart a new course.

“If we continue to send the people that have got us to this point — and that’s not pinning just on Representative Fischbach, obviously she’s only been there three years, but what you got to look at is where are we willing to take action?” Boyd said. “Where are we willing to use the platform? Use the voice? Use the leverage? We have to take action on the things we need to do.”

Fischbach has a huge campaign money advantage — with nearly $386,000 in the bank as of April 1 compared with $23,000 for Boyd. National House Republicans also tend to protect incumbents if they come under threat.

Back in the metro area, Republicans are hoping to flip a seat. They endorsed Tad Jude. He’s a well-known politician — and a former Democrat — who served in the Minnesota Legislature and later as a county commissioner and judge.

The 3rd Congressional District seat is open because DFL Rep. Dean Phillips opted against a reelection bid.  While far from a new voice, Jude says he knows what area voters are concerned about.

“The national issues that are out there, of course, are immigration, the need to have a southern border and have good surveillance on the northern border. We’re concerned about crime,” Jude said.

Jude does not expect a primary challenger. Next weekend, Democrats are expected to back state Senator Kelly Morrison to run against Jude in Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District.

Other DFL endorsing conventions will be held in May.