EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn — Republican delegates at State Central will vote for the next State Party Chair of the MNGOP in April. The position, held by Keith Downey for the last four years will take on a new meaning following a major upset in the November 8 election by Republicans. Every day, Alpha News MN will introduce you to a candidate for Chair. Each candidate answered a list of questions about their ideas for the future of the GOP.
Throughout our conversation, former Senate Minority Leader David Hann preached a message of hope. Hope for a better future for everyone. Very reserved and soft-spoken, Hann is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the political landscape and the history of the major parties. When talking about the Declaration of Independence, Hann pulled out a worn, hand-held copy of the Declaration of Independence to point out what the Republican Party stood on. Hann is the perfect statesman. He is skilled, experienced, and a respected leader in the Republican Party. Hann is also genuine in his speech. He gave an honest assessment of Trump. Hann was blunt stating “I don’t think he’s a conservative.” Acknowledging his support for another GOP candidate in the beginning, Hann said “Trump’s a welcomed breath of fresh air. I think he’ll do well. I’m looking forward to see what the next four years bring.”
Below are a list of answers given by former Senate Minority Leader David Hann during a sit-down, off-camera interview at a local coffee shop in Eden Prairie, MN.
You’ve had an illustrious career. You have been a business consultant, Senate Minority Leader, and school board member. How do these different job titles prepare you for a role as Chair of the MNGOP?
“Well, having the ability to work in the legislature, make contacts with people who are serving in elected office, serving as the minority leader for the last four years, putting together a statewide campaign to successfully win the majority of Republicans in the Senate, recruiting candidates, raising a record amount of money for Senate Republicans, and creating an organization, this was one of the biggest challenges we faced as an organization. I think those are the challenges the State Party faces, to develop the strength of party organization and continuing to maintain the financial discipline. To win elections in 2018 you need money, an organization, and a message.”
It looked as if you were on the fence when publicly asked if you would run. Walk me through your thought process and what ultimately pushed you to run?
“After the election, I wasn’t thinking a whole lot about this. However, people began to call me from around the state: donors, legislators, party leaders, activist – many I’ve become acquainted with and have gotten to know well. I’ve been active in the GOP for most of my adult life. I’ve have attended conventions on all levels, served as a Precinct Chair, a Senate Vice Chair, local level Party Officer, a member of the School board, and a candidate. It is different because I have never been a part of managing the State Party. I felt the need to learn how to do that and is what ultimately led me to my decision. The experience I have would be put to good use.”
You have some tough opponents running against you. What sets you apart from them?
“Well, they’re all good people. I know them all. They all have things to offer. To me, the Party Chair job is not a glamorous job, it’s not a stepping stone to something else, it’s just hard work. It’s building an organization, putting together a team, raising money, strengthening the organization across the State, and effective communications. The fact is of all the people running, I’m the only one with experience similar to the job qualifications of a State Chair. The question for delegates is whether they elect someone who has a good story or someone who has actually accomplished something.”
This seems like it is your race to lose. The only caveat is that some delegates might view you as being the ultimate insider – establishment. What do you say to those who call you establishment?
“What is establishment? People say that, but are they saying that people with experience should not seek political office? Would you pick a Senior Partner who has never gone to law school? There is nothing special about experience. A teacher says they have 30 years of experience. They don’t have 30 years of experience, they have one year of experience repeated 30 times. This is a label created by people who have no experience to criticize those who do. I have never thought about what is good for my career. What is important is the success of the enterprise.”
Despite Minnesota coming as close as it has been in the last 30 years to voting Republican in a presidential race, Stewart Mills lost the eighth and many local candidates did much better than Trump in their districts. Do you think there was a Trump wave?
“Yes and no. There were parts of the State where Trump’s message was appealing. In many cases, he drew a lot of disaffected Democrats in greater Minnesota. Democrats have been telling people that they are too stupid, too dumb, you don’t know what you’re doing, you need us experts in St. Paul or D.C. on how to live your life. Democrats tell them they should not have jobs. Environmentalist dominate the DFL telling people who want to work for a living that there are no jobs for them. They are now a metrocentric party dominated by extremist environmentalist. They believe socialism is going to save us. Republicans need to work in Greater Minnesota to bring the “F” and “L” element that has been dissatisfied to our side. But we cannot become the reverse of Democrats and abandon the metro either.”
Should you be elected, you face a very tough road ahead. You have a party that has over $1 million in debt, a skeleton staff, a remarkable statewide win you’ll be expected to replicate in 2018, and just two years to run effective campaigns for mayoral races in Minneapolis/St. Paul, a U.S. Senate race, eight Congressional races, State Representative races, statewide constitutional races, a Governor’s race, and a potential special election.
Where do you begin?
“The Party needs to change and become more effective. It has become burdened by debt over the last number of years, but we’ve turned a corner. Most of the debt we have is not interest bearing debt – that is the critical piece. I think the next Chairman will be tasked with raising money, changing the Party structure so the organization can function effectively, and prove effective support for campaigns. We have not done a good job at that. There is no secret sauce. It will be challenging, but I believe without a doubt that we will have success in 2018.”
How does the Republican Party of Minnesota continue to be the Party of fiscal responsibility when it has significant State and Federal debt?
“I think the Party has been responsible they way it has dealt with its debt. We haven’t declared bankruptcy, we haven’t walked away from the debt, we have done what a lot of families and businesses do: they struggle, they figure out how to pay their debts. The State Party is doing the same thing. Talking to donors, asking them to invest in an organization you have to give them a good reason to do so. It’s hard to convince them that the best reason to donate is so the organization can pay its taxes.”
In the past, the GOP has lost statewide races due to vote totals in CD4 and CD5. Many predict the GOP could win statewide if they raise vote totals in these districts to 28%-30%. However, they have been ignored in large part by the Party. How do you plan to change democratic strongholds in the cities to raise those vote totals?
“You have to make sure your base – dependable Republican voters in Greater Minnesota are motivated to vote. You cannot chase them away. I think a lot of Republicans in the Twin Cities chose not to vote for Trump and I think that did hurt. We looked at our map four years ago at the Senate Districts around the State and did an analytical investigation of all the districts we felt were going to be in play. We looked down to the precinct level to find out where we could win. This is what we did in the Senate.”
How do you plan to rebrand the party to make it more inclusive?
“This is a democratic talking point. There is no more racist organization in the country than Democrats. The people they celebrate – the Jefferson/Jackson Day Dinner, who were they? Two slave owners. They’re the headliners and champions of their dinners for the Party. They led the South in rebellion of the North over slavery. For 100 years after the Civil War, they resisted and implemented Jim Crow laws. The GOP was founded by going back to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and talking about all men being created equal and endowed by our creator with certain rights. It was in the first Party platform Republicans ever adopted. These are the principles that would drive the decision making of the Republican Party and we believe that there are things that are true about all people regardless of where they come from, their religion, or their heritage. I reject the notion that Republicans are not inclusive.”
Tomorrow, Alpha News MN will introduce you to MNGOP Deputy Chair Chris Fields. As reported by Alpha News MN, Fields announced his candidacy for State Chair during the December State Central meeting. Look out for interviews with Rick Rice and Jennifer Carnahan in the following days.
Subscribe to Alpha News MN to get updates on the State Party Chair race.