After the endorsements: GOP plans hard push, big fundraising for Cottage Grove-area legislative seatsLocal Republicans say their strategy to keep two legislative seats and pick up a third this November comes down to working hard and raising lots of money.
By: Scott Wente, South Washington County Bulletin
Local Republicans say their strategy to keep two legislative seats and pick up a third this November comes down to working hard and raising lots of money.
That was among the messages stressed as GOP activists in Senate District 54 on Saturday picked first-time candidate Janis Quinlan to challenge Sen. Katie Sieben and endorsed Cottage Grove City Council member Derrick Lehrke for an open Minnesota House seat that could be among Democrats’ top targets this fall.
Quinlan, a real estate agent and St. Paul Park resident, won the endorsement on the fourth round of balloting at the district convention Saturday in Hastings. She beat fellow first-time candidate Chad Rediske, of Cottage Grove, who conceded to Quinlan after trailing in each of the four rounds.
Two years ago, Quinlan worked on Republican Karin Housley’s failed run against Sieben and said she believes the seat can flip to Republican control this November. Housley endorsed Quinlan at the convention.
“I think the atmosphere right now is ripe for change for our district,” Quinlan said in an interview.
Quinlan said she is going to study individual votes Sieben has taken in an attempt to explain to voters that Sieben is in lock-step with her party.
“People need to know her record,” Quinlan said in an interview, later promising delegates: “I’m going to know her votes inside and out.”
After criticizing Sieben for voting with her party, Quinlan acknowledged that if elected she “mostly would vote along the (Republican) party line.”
Quinlan will be joined on the GOP ticket by Lehrke, running for House District 54A, and Rep. Denny McNamara, of Hastings, who will seek a sixth House term this fall in District 54B.
Lehrke wants to succeed retiring Rep. John Kriesel, who showed up at the convention to thank delegates for their support during his two-year term and urge them to back Lehrke. In 2010, Lehrke won his council seat, was a key volunteer for Kriesel and helped get his wife, Autumn, elected Washington County commissioner.
“Derrick is a guy that has more energy than anybody I’ve ever seen,” Kriesel said.
For his part, Lehrke said he’ll stick to a jobs-oriented campaign message this summer and fall.
“My focus is going to be straight on the economy,” he said.
Lehrke will be running against Democrat Dan Schoen, a St. Paul Park resident and Cottage Grove police officer endorsed Saturday at the local DFL Party convention in South St. Paul. Joanna Bayers, of Hastings, earned the DFL endorsement Saturday to run against McNamara.
McNamara urged GOP activists to get out and help Quinlan and Lehrke and donate to the candidates.
“We need to win the Senate seat,” McNamara said.
In an interview, McNamara said he is impressed with Quinlan as a candidate and Lehrke has demonstrated that he can do well in his hometown of Cottage Grove, which is a majority of House District 54A.
“That’s a tough seat,” McNamara said, adding that the new boundaries following redistricting may favor Republicans more than prior to redistricting. “Derrick has a good shot.”
Kriesel benefitted from name recognition and an ability to raise big campaign cash, and McNamara said “hopefully some of that can transfer over to Derrick.”
Quinlan said raising money will be vital in her bid against Sieben, a veteran incumbent with widespread name recognition.
“I am going to do a lot of fundraising — a ton,” she said.
The biggest surprise of the GOP endorsing convention may have come to its leader, Kellie Eigenheer. New local party leaders were elected, as well as delegates to the 2nd District congressional convention, and supporters of presidential candidate Ron Paul swept both elections.
“They ousted me,” said Eigenheer, who had campaigned to be district chairwoman. “I’m not saying they are bad people; it’s just a different crowd of people. We just weren’t expecting it.”
Eigenheer, who noted that Paul supporters are part of the GOP ranks, said her concern is that they “have a tendency to disappear” after Paul is no longer a presidential candidate. She said party leadership needs to continue organizing local Republicans after this fall’s election.
“I hope that they will stay involved,” she said.