It was a spirited morning and early afternoon at Christ the King Lutheran Church in New Brighton as the House 50B Republican BPOU met for its convention. A total of 106 delegates and alternates met and participated in the convention, an impressive turnout. The headline is that the BPOU has endorsed a candidate to run against Kate Knuth, the orange-clad Green incumbent who has represented (so to speak) our district for the past two terms.
Our candidate is Russell Bertsch, an Arden Hills businessman who is a newcomer to politics but a passionate voice for reform. Russ earned the nomination from an impressive slate of candidates that also included Cody Holliday, a senior at Bethel University with a very bright future in politics, and Greg Meyers, a successful businessman from New Brighton.
Russ is following the Cincinnatus model of politics, choosing to put down his plow to seek office. He has watched with increasing dismay as the legislators in St. Paul have piled an increasing number of regulatory obstacles in front of his business. Russ is keenly aware of how these costs are affecting his business and expressed many of the same concerns that are driving conservative activists right now. Although he has only been pursuing the nomination for a little over a month, he's proven a quick study and has demonstrated a pretty good understanding of the local issues that will also animate this race, issues that Kate Knuth has largely ignored as she has pursued her larger environmentalist agenda.
Although Knuth has controlled the district for two terms, it's worth noting that 50B has been a swing district historically, but is a more conservative district now than it was in the past. The bulk of the residents of the district live in New Brighton, which tends to be purplish, but what has changed is that Arden Hills, which tends to be considerably more conservative community, is now part of the district, along with portions of Shoreview and Fridley. A conservative with a good message can win this district and should be able to hold it by providing good constituent service. There is every reason to believe that Russ Bertsch is that sort of candidate. Unlike Knuth, who has never done anything in her life outside the academic or political realm, Russ Bertsch has had to make tough decisions and understand the bottom line.
Although the final decision on the State Senate candidate will wait until District 50 convention on March 20, we heard from the two likely candidates, New Brighton City Council member Gina Bauman and Rae Hart Anderson, a nurse practitioner who was the GOP standard-bearer last time against the DFL incumbent, Satveer Chaudhary. Regular readers of this feature know that I have strongly supported Gina in past campaigns and believe that she would be a formidable challenger to Chaudhary, who has not been much of a factor in the Senate in his two terms there. Chaudhary's political strength is in the other half of the district, 50A, which includes Columbia Heights and Fridley, both DFL strongholds. The X-Factor in the Senate race is that 50A has a strong GOP House candidate in Tim Utz, who has run a very spirited campaign thus far and is making inroads against the DFL incumbent, Carolyn Laine. We'll have more to say about the Senate race as we get closer.
We also heard from a number of candidates for other offices, including four candidates who are hoping to earn the endorsement to run for Congress against Betty McCollum. It's only a first impression, but of the four candidates we heard from at the convention the one I liked the best was Teresa Collett, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas, who is smart, polished and would likely have the shrill yet reclusive McCollum ducking debates all over the Fighting 4th. The other three candidates we heard from, including Brad Lee, Joe Blum and Gene Rechtigelz, all had some intelligent things to say as well. There may be other candidates looking to take on Betty as well. I'll take a closer look at this race as we move forward, but I have more research to do.
Then there was the white-hot governor's race. We'll talk about that, too. But that's another post.
Cross-posted at True North