May 13, 2022 - Politics

Minnesota Republicans gather to endorse candidate for governor

Illustration of an elephant trunk holding a megaphone.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

November matchups for some of Minnesota's top statewide races could be all but finalized by this weekend — if a fight over election security doesn't derail the state Republican Party convention.

What's happening: Republican activists will gather in Rochester Friday and Saturday to endorse candidates for statewide office, including governor, ahead of the August primary.

Why it matters: The endorsements carry serious weight and unlock GOP cash and resources. The GOP's endorsed candidate has become the party's eventual gubernatorial nominee in every election since 1994.

State of play: The crowded nature of the field of candidates vying to take on DFL Gov. Tim Walz means it's unlikely that any candidate will secure the endorsement on the first ballot.

  • Contested races for attorney general and secretary of state are also on the agenda.

What we're hearing: Scott Jensen, a physician and former state senator, is believed by many to have a lead among delegates. But he remains shy of the 60% threshold to win.

  • A key question will be whether delegates backing candidates who don't perform as well in round one throw their support behind him or another candidate, such as Kendall Qualls or state Sen. Paul Gazelka.

What to watch: A debate among delegates and campaigns over whether to use paper or electronic ballots for the convention could upend the process.

  • Minnesota Republican Party Chairman David Hann, who wants to stick with the almost instantaneous electronic system, told Axios it could take two hours for each round of voting with paper ballots.
  • Under that scenario, it's unlikely that all of the endorsements could be completed by a 6pm Saturday deadline for vacating the venue.

Yes, but: Hann said he's confident delegates will ultimately pick a candidate to back for governor, even if it means changing the order of paper ballot votes and staying late into the night Friday to get it done.

  • "Everybody understands that an endorsement is extremely key," he told Axios.

The intrigue: All the gubernatorial candidates have committed both publicly and to Hann personally that they will abide by the endorsement and end their campaign if they aren't the party's pick.

  • But objections to the process — or a situation where campaigns and delegates do run out the clock — could mean multiple candidates still go on to the August primary.
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