eltrami County Republican Chairman Ken Cobb addresses the county convention on Saturday morning.
Itâ€™s early yet, but the Beltrami County Republican Party, at its annual convention Saturday, took straw polls in both the 2012 presidential race and the 2012 U.S. Senate race, a seat now held by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat.
With 46 voting delegates, former Govs. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Mike Huckabee of Arkansas tied for the county GOPâ€™s early choice for president, each getting nine votes or 19.6 percent. Huckabee is no surprise, as he led delegate preference during the 2008 Beltrami County Republican precinct caucuses.
Pawlenty, however, does surprise as his finish in Beltrami County is about double his polling statewide in preference polls conducted by the media. He is a favorite among county Republicans, however, for his no-new-taxes stance and his strong support of the Bemidji Regional Event Center, now The Sanford Center. That, even though he never did visit Bemidji again after declaring his lame-duck status nearly a year and a half before he left office, and after he got into a pissing match with Bemidji Mayor Richard Lehmann, a Republican running for House 4A, over Bemidjiâ€™s Local Government Aid allocations.
Finishing third in the straw poll, with four votes each or 8.7 percent, were U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Donald Trump got two votes and Sarah Palin none.
As Klobuchar closes out her first term, Beltrami County Republicans would sooner like Bachmann to replace her as Minnesotaâ€™s senator. Bachmann tallied 10 votes or 21.7 percent among delegates to land in first place.
Tied for second with seven votes or 15.2 percent were former Gov. Pawlenty and former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, a gubernatorial candidate last spring. And the GOPâ€™s pick to run for governor, Rep. Tom Emmer, took fourth with six votes or 13 percent. Former House Speaker Steve Sviggum and new U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack followed with four votes each, or 8.7 percent.
Former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, whose seat was taken by Al Franken, won favor of three delegates or 6.5 percent to take the Klobuchar seat.
The convention had the usual speakers, with local newcomer legislators John Carlson and Dave Hancock. Cravaack, who ousted Jim Oberstar, was supposed to keynote the convention, but was held back in Washington as the U.S. House debated the continuing resolution to take the federal government to Oct. 1. Cravaack will instead keynote the party banquet on May 6.
In an unsual twist of words, Kath Molitor, once party chairwoman, won re-election as co-vice chairman for the 8th Congressional District. She also will be one of two delegates to the State Central Committee, which elects the Minnesota Republican Party officers.
For that post, she said she wanted to correct the party â€œdirtiesâ€ that have ruled the party. She was asked what she meant by â€œdirties,â€ and she refused to go into details because a reporter was present. Nonetheless, she referred to the party making decisions on who should run for what, and those decisions should come from the bottom up.
Molitor seemed to refer to a time when a candidate was pushed onto local Republicans, a candidate they didnâ€™t support. â€œThey should be listening to us, not us listening to them who to run,â€ she said.
What comes to mind is the 2006 election when 7th District Republicans endorsed Michael Barrett for 7th District Congress, a candidate from Little Falls who put high on his agenda having Red Lake Band of Chippewaâ€™s sovereign status tested in court, especially over ownership of Upper Red Lake. Itâ€™s an issue that is sensitive to local Republicans, who donâ€™t fare well on the reservation as it is. They were able to cancel a Barrett appearance in Bemidji, knowing that it would see heavy protesting from Red Lakers.
Beltrami County Republican Chairman Ken Cobb described Molitorâ€™s goal as to â€œbreak up the old menâ€™s club,â€ something which Molitor agreed. The 47 county delegates applauded at that.
Newly elected 7th District county GOP Co-Vice Chairman Al Berkowitz made an odd statement in his speech for the post. He told of a quote from Adolf Hitler, â€œGive me one generation and I own the country.â€ He then told delegates that their children and grandchildren must remember that quote to avoid it from happening. Does that mean that Mr. Berkowitz is equating Hitler with the nationâ€™s liberals?
It will be the Democrats turn this coming week. On Monday night, the Beltrami County DFL will hold its annual Presidents Day fund-raiser, with guest speaker House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis. Next weekend, at Northern Lights Casino, Democrats from three congressional districts will hold a daylong workshop Saturday, followed by a Saturday night banquet presumably with a host of state Democratic higher-ups. No word if one of them is Gov. Mark Dayton.