Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Time for a Choice in the Secretary of State Race

Earlier this morning, Shawn Towle, a member of the Capitol Press Corps, and DFL activist, “broke” the worst kept secret in politics- that Republican candidate for Secretary of State Dennis Nguyen has a habit of frequenting strip clubs.

While Towle has a somewhat checkered past when it comes to the accuracy of his reporting, it should be noted that Nguyen’s habit of frequenting strip clubs was confirmed by the candidate himself.

While the rumors about Nguyen’s strip club habits have been widespread for quite some time, this was a topic that few people were willing to touch, at least publicly.

There have been numerous conversations behind the scenes to convince the Nguyen campaign to get ahead of this story, something they refused to do. The campaign took the position that Dennis’ behavior was not illegal, and that this will not be an issue to Republicans at an endorsing convention, or to voters in a general election.

Towle took things a step further today, by apparently confirming that former Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem of Rochester accompanied Nguyen to a strip club on at least one occasion- after Nguyen’s announcement as a candidate.

I disagree with Nguyen’s campaign’s assessment that this is a non-issue. While it is true that activities of Nguyen and Senjem are not illegal, this type of story plays right into the media narrative of the “war on women” and that family values Republicans are all a bunch of hypocrites.  You don’t have to like reality, but you do have to acknowledge it.

What’s more alarming than the Nguyen campaign’s tin ear on this issue is the blatant disregard they had for other Republicans and the impact that this news breaking could have on them.

Nguyen has been endorsed by 23 State Senators and 40 members of the Minnesota House, including several people who are running for higher office like Senator Benson, Senator Ortman, Senator Westrom, Rep Mike Benson, and Rep Abeler.

The Nguyen campaign was aware for weeks that this news was widely known, but did not have the courtesy to give a “heads up” to the people who endorsed him and allow them to make a decision on whether or not to continue their support.

Beyond the stripper issue, the campaign’s terrible judgement, and incredibly bad crisis management, there are other aspects of the Nguyen campaign that should be concerning.

Nguyen sold himself to activists and the legislators who endorsed him as someone would be able to fundraise, and also self fund his campaign, yet there has been little evidence of this so far. As of the end of 2013, Nguyen raised a mere $10,000, and loaned his campaign another $20,000.

When you add that to Nguyen’s opposition to photo ID, it’s hard to see a compelling reason for Nguyen’s continued candidacy.

In my opinion, this is a campaign that cannot win, and should not continue.

I think Republicans would be well served if another candidate were to get into the race for Secretary of State.