In an e-mail sent to State Central Committee members last Monday, Minnesota GOP Deputy Chair Michael Brodkorb announced that he was stepping down from his position to help state Sen. Mike Parry run for Congress against Democratic Rep. Tim Walz.
Michael Brodkorb was never exceptionally popular with the GOP base. When he ran for his second term for the position earlier this year, he received 255 votes from the committee to 83 votes for his opponent, Sheldon Beilke. Sheldon had never been involved in politics before; in his mid-twenties, he registered to vote only after making the decision to seek the second-highest position in the state party. That he received any support at all was a noteworthy indicator of discontent in the ranks.
It is hard to be popular as a party officer. People wait for years – sometimes decades – to run for these positions. They don’t just go away when they lose elections. They become what William Safire dubbed “nattering nabobs of negativism.” Sometimes they spend the remainder of their lives trying to destroy whoever does hold the position they wanted.
For that reason, it can be hard to be popular. But it is not impossible. State Chairman Tony Sutton was uncontested in his re-election this year.
In the worst-case scenario, the party could end up with an officer who drives people away and diminishes the party’s standing. This happens most commonly when individuals are elected who have only experienced one perspective. They have only floated among the elites on the dinner-club side of the party, or they have only had their heads smashed in by the elite among the party’s grassroots activists.
With that in mind, I was glad to see David Fitzsimmons’ announcement that he would be running for the deputy chairman position. He is currently the chairman of the state’s Sixth Congressional Republican Party, and it is well-known that he served as Tom Emmer’s gubernatorial campaign manager last year. I have known David for several years and consider him a friend.
Unlike many candidates, he has experienced the Republican Party from multiple perspectives. He was on the Ron Paul side of the movement in 2008 when the party’s officers that year tried to crush it and drive that candidate’s supporters out of the party; he was Tom Emmer’s campaign manager in 2010 when Emmer won the party’s nomination for governor.
Given his ability to relate to different sides of the movement, I think that most long-time activists will be pleasantly surprised to have found a candidate who is atypically good at promoting the unity of the Republican Party.
As to other candidates for the position, the field seems to be largely speculative. I have heard speculation about others who may be thinking about running, but no other candidates have announced to date. (Or if they have, they have not sent out an announcement to members of the State Central Committee.)
For the time being, I think that a strong cross-section of delegates will find that they are comfortable with the prospect of giving David Fitzsimmons a chance as their next deputy chairman.