Sunday, June 1, 2014

Rumors of the Death of Marty Seifert’s Political Career Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

I attended the Republican Party of Minnesota’s State convention in Rochester this weekend, both as a delegate, and as a blogger.  I hope to get around to some more post-mortem analysis, but I want to focus first on the convention’s biggest controversy- Marty Seifert’s exit.

There were four candidates competing for the endorsement: Dave Thompson, Jeff Johnson, Marty Seifert and Rob Farnsworth. In the spirit of full disclosure, I was not (and am still not) backing a particular candidate in the Governor’s race, but had earlier ruled out supporting Johnson.

The endorsing contest for Governor was supposed to start early in the day on Saturday, but the endorsement in the US Senate race ended up being continued from the night before.  As a result, the first ballot in the Governor’s race didn’t happen until about 4PM.

Seifert came in third place on the first three ballots.  After the third ballot Thompson dropped out and threw his support behind Johnson.  It was then that Seifert took the stage to make a speech.

In his speech Seifert released his delegates and told them they could go home.  The move was an attempt by Seifert’s campaign to block the endorsement of Johnson.  Endorsement requires 60% of the votes that are cast, but that number needs to be more than 50% of the delegate count at the time of the last credentials report.  So if enough people leave, it becomes impossible (or very difficult without some crazy rules wrangling) to obtain an endorsement.

Many delegates who were present in the morning had left by the time that the first ballot for Governor was cast, and even more had left by the time Seifert gave his speech.  Seifert’s campaign claims that he was most affected by the late start to the endorsement process, because the majority of the delegates who were supporting him were from outstate MN, and had longer drives to get home.  I don’t have enough information to know whether this is true, but it is certainly plausible.

After Seifert released his delegates the Outrage Machine went into overdrive. Delegates screamed at Seifert that he had no integrity. Delegates tore Seifert signs off the wall and ripped them in half. One Jeff Johnson supporter accused him of cheating. Others reportedly shoved and spit at Seifert staffers.

Several activists declared this the end of Seifert’s political career. Others, including a radio host and the convention’s chief teller, promised to make sure that happened.

Color me skeptical.  What Marty Seifert did by releasing his delegates to go home was a classic convention strategy.  In fact, it’s the same one that was used by Betsy Hodges at a DFL endorsing convention in 2013. She’s now the Mayor of Minneapolis.

Hodges bought her supporters pizza and got them to leave the convention in order to block the convention from endorsing. The two big differences between what Hodges and Seifert did were that there wasn’t any pizza involved, and that Hodges actually pulled it off.  That the convention was able to successfully endorse a candidate on the next ballot makes the outrage at Seifert even more confusing.

We are going to have a primary for Governor, and it’s possible that Marty Seifert could win it. If he loses, it’s probably safe to say that his career in politics is over. If he wins, the State Central Committee will get together and endorse him and he’ll go on to the election in November.

If I could give a little unsolicited advice to the endorsement die-hards out there, you may want to spend a little more time propping up your endorsed candidate and a little less time lashing out at the guy you may end up having to support in the fall.

See you at the primary.