Capitol Chatter: Cash-strapped Republicans downplay funding issue
ST. PAUL -- Republicans are stereotyped as being rich, but Minnesota Republicans can testify that was not the case in the 2012 campaign.
The Minnesota GOP state party began the campaign millions in debt and never was able to adequately fund election-year work. At one point earlier this year, Kurt Bills said his U.S. Senate campaign would provide backroom work for the party, but he raised little money and finished far behind U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Even with a robust state party, Republicans said they would have faced a fiscal cliff on Nov. 6.
"Republicans are almost always outspent," Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, said.
In 2010, for instance, Republicans picked up 16 Senate seats while being outspent 2.5 to 1.
"We have to compensate for that with our message and a good grassroots effort, and obviously we were not able to overcome it this time," Thompson said. "Obviously it would have helped to have a financially healthy party."
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, joined other Republicans in blaming negative and false Democratic advertising for the loss, but added: "We didn't have the resources we would like."
Even so, he quickly added, "our party was not in disarray. ... The volunteer effort was there."
Democrats downplayed GOP money woes even more than Republicans.
"I don't think it was much of a factor," Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, said.
Like other Republicans, Thompson said GOP Chairman Pat Shortridge and Deputy Chairwoman Kelly Fenton are doing well to fix party fiscal problems. "They are digging out of a deep hole."
The 2012 election barely is history, but talk has shifted to 2014.
The two big Minnesota prizes will be governor and U.S. Senate. Democrats know their candidates; Gov. Mark Dayton and U.S. Sen. Al Franken are expected to seek second terms.
There has been talk for months about who Republicans may have on the bench for 2014. With former Gov. Tim Pawlenty taking himself out of politics, even more questions arose.
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson has said he is thinking about running. He is a Detroit Lakes native and former state representative.
He lost his only statewide race, for attorney general, but as Republican national committeeman he has a lot of party contacts. He played peacemaker at this year's state convention as divisions surfaced between traditional Republicans and those who supported Ron Paul's presidential campaign.
It was not clear whether House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, would be interested after his caucus lost control of the House in Tuesday's election. When he said he would not seek the minority leader's post, he said: "I have done my time."
Perennial candidate Ole Savior, who never collects many votes, already is in the governor's race as a Republican.
Farm bill sought
U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, fresh off a comfortable re-election win, is lobbying Republicans who control the House to bring a farm bill up for a vote by year's end.
The western Minnesota Democrat said the bill needs a decision before current federal farm policy expires this year.
"The election is over, so it's time to get to work," he said, adding that he is opposed to just extending existing law. "I'm optimistic that, if given the chance, we have the votes to pass a five-year farm bill. There is no good reason not to vote on the bill when we return next week, before Thanksgiving."
A vote before Thanksgiving would give lawmakers time to work out differences between House and Senate versions of the bill, said Peterson, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee.
'Not just novelty'
One of Minnesota's African-American legislators said President Barack Obama's re-election gives blacks political credibility.
"I think this is a mandate that the country can move forward, that this time Obama was elected on his merits, not just the novelty," Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, said. "It says to me we can get over our differences and it says to young African-American children that they can become anything they want to."
Republicans, he added, need to consider their stance. "Politically, I think the GOP has to really think about the idea of attracting only one demographic, that isn't going to work."
Redistricting not reason
Every 10 years new legislative district lines are redrawn, and often partisans give it as a reason they lost the next election.
"We felt that redistricting was not unfavorable to us generally," Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said after his Republicans lost Senate control.
One more time
Newly elected DFL senators gathered in the St. Paul Hotel to elect leaders for the next four years, but there was one departing lawmaker there, too.
The Senate's oldest and longest-serving member attended what likely was his last caucus meeting.
Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, had decided it was time to retire and spend more time with family. Still, since he first entered the Legislature in 1974, he found it a bit tough to not meet one last time.
Call me ...
Word leaked out of Thursday's private meeting of Minnesota Senate Democrats that Katie Sieben had been elected No. 2 in the Senate.
Originally, it was reported she would be called "assistant majority leader." Senate staffers quickly corrected that to "deputy majority leader."
Once Sieben and Senate Majority Leader-designate Tom Bakk of Cook emerged from the meeting, she used the term "assistant majority leader."
So what do we call you? "Just call me Katie."
Freelance writers Martin Owings and Andrew Tellijohn contributed to this report.