Introducing The Minnesota Conservatives Interview Series
This is the first in what will be an ongoing series of interviews with people MC finds interesting and important. The format is unlike any other MC is aware of and readers should know about it in order to appreciate what is trying to be accomplished here. Crucially, the MC interview series is not and will never be about "gotcha" journalism. There may be a place for that but it isn't here. The ground rules are simple and transparent. MC generates all the questions readers will see in the interview. The answers to those questions are written by the interviewee without any changes of any kind by MC. What they write is what is published. MC does no editing and does not consult or suggest changes to what is tendered. The challenge for MC is to draft interesting, engaging questions (with its readers in mind, obviously) while the goal for the interviewee is to be direct and substantive. With those premises and goals in hand, MC sought out Michael Brodkorb, the former deputy chair of the Minnesota Republican Party, for its first interview. Opportunity not only makes the thief; it also makes the blogger. Or can. So special thanks to him, then, for being the first to try out this new format. With luck, these interviews will be seen as adding value to the political discourse in Minnesota and will include those from other parties with decidedly non-republican views. With no fear of "gotcha," we might actually start listening to each other more. MC is under no illusion that such an interchange will alter people's views or policy positions; a greater understanding, however, as to why people hold the views they do is nonetheless a worthy endeavor. This includes, especially at this premiere of the interview series, those of us within the Republican Party of Minnesota.
MC: You made explosive comments yesterday to Tom Scheck from MPR at the State Central Committee meeting that have been the talk of Minnesota politics. Can you explain to readers your rationale for doing so, what you hoped to achieve and whether going public hurts the RPM instead of helping it?
Brodkorb: The bulk of yesterday’s state central committee meeting was a discussion about party finances. As a former party officer who was actively involved in the 2010 elections, I believed a story needed to be told about how Tom Emmer’s campaign was run in the 60-90 days after the convention. It drained the party’s resources, terrified the major donor community from giving to both the party and the Emmer campaign and allowed an opportunity for republicans & independents to move to Tom Horner’s campaign.
I don’t believe most party activists realized how dire the situation was for the party. We couldn’t mention Emmer’s name in generic fundraising scripts for the call center. After the tip-credit debacle, candidates for statewide and legislative office didn’t want to campaign with Emmer. We also had a problem getting surrogates to defend Emmer, so it fell to then-Chairman Sutton and myself.
Just look at the polls: Survey USA released a poll immediately following the MN GOP State Convention and Emmer had an 8-point lead over Dayton. Survey USA released a poll in early August and Emmer was down to Dayton by 14-points – a 22-point swing. The messaging mistakes made by Tom Emmer in the months following the convention cost him the election.
Legislators and others who worked so hard to ensure Emmer was endorsed were suddenly unavailable to help defend Emmer from the attacks in the weeks after the convention. It was very disappointing. As a party officer, I was bound to be neutral during the endorsement process. But it seems in retrospect that some of the legislators that endorsed Emmer were more interested in preventing Marty Seifert from getting the endorsement than helping Emmer win the general election. Once Emmer was endorsed, some were nowhere to be found. It fell to Sutton and I to defend Emmer and we did it without question.
Imagine the impact we could have had on this state with a GOP governor and GOP-controlled legislature. We may have missed a once in a lifetime opportunity.
MC: Now that it is a day or so later, do you regret either saying what you did or do you in fact wish you had added something, which, of course, this interview allows you to do?
Brodkorb: I stand by my comments. My only regret is not speaking out sooner. If I had publicly spoken out earlier, maybe the 2nd campaign team to lead Emmer’s campaign could have come in sooner and had more time to rebuild the campaign.
MC: MC was a Seifert supporter then an Emmer supporter (MC is not unaware of its detractors who say any criticism of the Emmer campaign while ongoing was defeatist; MC simply has to disagree). Do your comments open up an old wound that should have been allowed to be healed? Is MC simply the blog equivalent of Rodney King: can't we all get along?
Brodkorb: Nobody is above criticisms in our party and in order to fix our problems we need to have a full discussion on the issues that impacted the party’s financial situation. Pawlenty was out-spent 2 or 3 to 1 in ’06 and was able to win. 2010 was the best year for republicans since Watergate and the party nominated likely the one republican who couldn’t win.
MC: What are your thoughts about the Minnesota House & Senate remaining in the hands of the party of sanity next November?
Brodkorb: First, let me state that I have complete faith in deputy chair Kelly Fenton. She will be an outstanding deputy chair and, for the next few weeks, she will lead our party and this will build confidence. My hope is that the legislative caucuses will work with the new chair and deputy chair Fenton and we will be successful in ’12.
MC: What do you think is the best approach to taking back the governorship?
Brodkorb: It’s very simple: endorse a candidate that can win the general election. This also means that our endorsed candidate for governor surround him or her self with a professional and prepared campaign staff that is ready to hit the ground immediately following the convention with a strategy to win.
MC: Given Citizens United, as well as the deleterious effects of McCain-Feingold, what's your take on the future topography of politics in Minnesota? Are parties almost beside the point given the rise of 501(c)(3)'s and (c)(4)'s and would it make sense to move to a primary system instead of the insider's game of the current caucus system?
Brodkorb: I support the caucus system and hope our party recovers and rebuilds. I will do everything I can to help make the party stronger. But there is no question that we are out-matched by outside groups and we need to build a similar coalition of groups.
MC: You're currently working on the Parry campaign in Minnesota's CD 1 (Parry seeks the GOP endorsement to run against incumbent Tim Walz). Politically, that's a short one-year cycle. Here's a possibly unfair question: what do you want to do in the future?
Brodkorb: I am a proud partisan Republican. I don’t need a big title; I’m just a simple republican activist. I’m going to work just as hard as I did as deputy chair to ensure the Republican Party of Minnesota is strong and that we win elections. I’m going to continue to be passionate about supporting our values and candidates. I’m not going anywhere. The fight still continues.
MC: Thank you for agreeing to this interview, Michael.
UPDATE: Michael Brodkorb contacted MC to emphasize that the legislators who strongly and vocally supported Emmer for the endorsement were AWOL especially after the tip-credit debacle. MC: apparently they know who they are.