Here in Minnesota, where we managed to elect Jesse Ventura as Governor and Al Franken to the US Senate within a decade of each other, the state Republican Party held its convention this past weekend. Minnesota has a caucus-plus-primary system, in which the two parties attempt to settle its nominations with convention endorsements for state-wide offices. Often, the fight continues through to a late-season primary, drawing resources away from the general-election campaign. Democrats hold all of the state-wide offices, including Franken as the incumbent Senator and Mark Dayton as Governor, so their nominations have long been settled.
Republicans batted .500 on those offices this weekend. The good news is that the state GOP united behind Mike McFadden as the challenger to Franken’s seat:
After flirting with an outsider candidate in St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg, Republicans embraced McFadden’s promise of superior fundraising and organization. The battle between the two went into the pre-dawn hours Saturday and, after a break for sleep, continued until McFadden clinched delegates’ endorsement Saturday afternoon.
“I’m so honored to be your endorsed candidate for the United States Senate. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, I humbly accept,” McFadden said, his voice flagging and his energy renewed. “I look forward to taking the fight to Al Franken.”
McFadden, who has raised nearly $3 million for the coming battle and promised more to come, was thought to be a long-shot to win party backing. Unlike Republicans who had won endorsement in years past, he has had little involvement in party politics and refused to drop out if delegates chose someone else.
McFadden convinced activists, sick of losing Minnesota races, that he could win in November.
“I am the candidate, undoubtedly, without an exception, to beat Al Franken,” McFadden said.
McFadden ended up with endorsements from both moderate Norm Coleman, who lost his Senate seat to Franken in a disputed recount in 2008, and conservative firebrand Michele Bachmann. McFadden has the money to self-fund if necessary, having considerable wealth to use in the race if he so chooses, but McFadden has also been successful at raising money, as the Strib’s Rachel Stassen-Berger notes. McFadden’s wealth will also be a prime target for Team Franken, although McFadden points out that Franken isn’t exactly poverty-stricken either:
McFadden has been taking pains to differentiate the work he’s done as co-CEO of Lazard Middle Market, from which he is now on leave, from the kind of private-equity deals that were used as ammunition against presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He has brought in a researcher who advised Romney’s campaign to help him address the issue of his business background.
McFadden’s firm is an investment bank that played an advisory role and did not get a stake in the small- to medium-sized companies it worked with nor did it make operational decisions, according to his campaign.
As for his personal wealth, McFadden has said that Franken also is wealthy and that high net worth shouldn’t disqualify someone from public office.
In August, McFadden reported he was worth at least $15 million and as much as $57 million. He earned $2.4 million in salary and bonuses from Lazard Middle Market between January 2012 and July 2013, according to a public financial disclosure report. He has given $5,200 to his campaign.
According to a financial disclosure report filed in May 2013, Franken has between $4 million and $12 million in assets. He gets a Senate salary of $174,000 and continues to earn money from books and from his work as a writer and performer in movies and TV.
As I said, the ability of McFadden to take aim exclusively this summer at Franken rather than get bogged down in a primary fight is good news for Minnesota Republicans. There hasn’t been much polling yet on this race, and none for almost two months. Franken led in an April poll from Suffolk over McFadden by 15 points, 44/29, but Obama’s ratings may still be a drag down the line in Minnesota for Franken, especially with all of the problems experienced in the state ObamaCare exchange MNSure. Franken has kept a low profile but hasn’t really led on anything either, and he only managed a 43/43 tie in the Obama MN landslide of 2008. It’s not going to be easy for McFadden, but it’s not Mission:Impossible either.
The bad news for the GOP? The food fight continues in the gubernatorial race, but that was already pre-ordained:
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson beat out three other Republicans to capture his party’s endorsement for governor on Saturday. Now he must prepare to beat three more in the state’s first major contested GOP primary in two decades.
A mild-mannered attorney and veteran politician who promised he has the general election appeal to beat Gov. Mark Dayton in November, Johnson emerged victorious in a volatile contest that saw many delegates leave before it was over. …
One of the candidates Johnson beat out, former House Rep. Marty Seifert, is already planning for the Aug. 12 primary. Businessman Scott Honour and former House Speaker Kurt Zellers bypassed the endorsement altogether and also are working on their primary campaigns.
While some candidates were in Rochester wooing Republican delegates, Honour headed for Duluth on Saturday, to hold a news conference with new running mate, state Sen. Karen Housley, of St. Marys Point, not far from the convention center where Minnesota DFLers were giving their official backing to Dayton for a second term.
The Strib mentions that Dayton won after a recount too in 2010, but the circumstances were much different; the distance was 9,000 votes instead of 300, and the recount put no dent in the margin. Dayton will have the advantage over the next two months of taking shots against Johnson, or more likely, select his favored candidate by dropping bombs all summer on the other three.
Speaking of three, the one wild card in Minnesota has been significant bids by Independence Party candidates. They took enough votes in both the Franken and Dayton victories to change the outcome, although political analysts will spend the next century debating whether they actually did. (My take: Probably with Franken, who vastly underperformed Obama in 2008, and maybe so with Dayton, who beat the GOP wave that secured control of the legislature in 2010.) If the Independence Party fields candidates in these races, that could change the fortunes of both — and right now, that would appear to be more of a risk for Franken and Dayton.
Team McFadden has this introductory video on their campaign website. Stay tuned for more from Minnesota.
Update: “Disputed recall” was meant to be “disputed recount.” I’ve fixed it above, and thanks to Steven S for the heads-up.