Party officials accuse Minnesota GOP chair of creating culture of intimidation

Several current and past committee members recently issued letters opposing the incumbent chair, with complaints about her lack of communication, financial mismanagement, vengefulness, and more. Some have now endorsed her opponent, Sen. Mark Koran, who has vowed to lead "without drama."

Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan talks with reporters. (Minnesota GOP/Instagram)

Several hundred party members from around the state will meet in a virtual convention Saturday to vote for the next chair of the Minnesota Republican Party.

Seeking a third term, Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan is taking credit for Republicans flipping three U.S. House seats in the past two elections.

But under her tenure, Republicans also lost two congressional seats in 2018. The party extended its run of failing to win a statewide election to over 14 years in 2020, when Tina Smith retained her U.S. Senate seat, and Joe Biden increased the Democrats’ margin over Donald Trump in the presidential election.

This came on the heels of Gov. Tim Walz beating Republican candidate Jeff Johnson; Attorney General Keith Ellison defeating Doug Wardlow; and Amy Klobuchar winning a third U.S. Senate term in 2018.

Two years ago, Carnahan “promised President Trump that we will deliver Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes to him in 2020, and I’m committed to seeing that through,” which didn’t occur.

Carnahan has her share of detractors. Several current and past Executive Committee members recently issued letters opposing the incumbent, with complaints about her lack of communication, financial mismanagement, vengefulness, impugning of reputations, creating and tolerating a toxic environment, bullying, disrespect, and more.

Republican National Committeewoman Barb Sutter, for instance, said in a letter to delegates that over 50% of online donations to the Minnesota GOP have gone to “credit card processing fees.”

“The state party has used fundraising vendors who get a percentage of the donations.  However, over the period from October 2019 to February 2020, the oversight of those allocations was virtually nonexistent,” Sutter said in her email. “MN GOP got to keep only 48% of the money that came in online, whether the vendor was responsible or not for the donations. Our vendors took large fees on nearly all donations throughout the life of our relationship.”

Sutter concluded her email by discussing Carnahan’s alleged attempts to “ruin peoples’ reputation when they don’t do what” she wants.

“Rather than nurturing a vibrant environment that fosters teamwork and creativity, Jennifer uses fear to intimidate and silence her opponents. This is a drain on our party’s energy and resources, and it’s inconsistent with the values our donors expect, and that our Constitution stands for. We deserve better, and the conservatives in this state deserve better,” Sutter said.

Republican National Committeeman Max Rymer said he was subjected to the kind of retaliation Sutter described when he attempted to privately raise concerns about the party’s financial mismanagement. In response, Carnahan “has impugned my character, tarnished my reputation at the highest levels of the Republican National Committee, has told explicit falsehoods, and involved more people than just our Executive Committee — all the way up to the COO of the RNC and beyond,” Rymer said in an email to party officials.

“I am disturbed the way MN GOP Chair Jennifer Carnahan has handled this situation. She’s displayed prolonged financial negligence, misrepresented the financial impact to the Executive Committee Board, and attempted to intimidate a whistleblower (me),” Rymer continued.

Dave Pascoe, secretary of the Minnesota GOP, said in an email to delegates that he has been “asking questions about party mismanagement and finances” since December.

“These questions have not been well received,” he said. “Unfortunately, it appears that me looking into these matters has been taken as a combative personal attack.”

Janet Beihoffer, a former Republican committeewoman for Minnesota, also objected to Carnahan’s leadership in a recent email to delegates and endorsed her opponent.

“When she did not get her way or felt threatened, she labeled people ‘racists,’” Beihoffer said of Carnahan. “She literally utilized the Democrat technique of ‘identity politics’ with wild abandon. I have worked in multiple industries, with [thousands] of people from over 56 nations — I have never heard or witnessed successful, positive people use the term ‘racist’ like I have seen Jennifer Carnahan use it to describe so many of her fellow Republicans.”

Executive Committee member Gary Steuart said it is “time to elect a different party chair,” calling some of Carnahan’s actions “petty and unwise.”

All of these emails were obtained and reviewed by Alpha News. Even some College Republicans are speaking out against Carnahan’s leadership, including the chairwoman of the University of Minnesota-Duluth chapter.

Tiffani Skroch said she has “never once felt that Jennifer Carnahan cared for the young generations of Republicans in this state.”

“Over the years, I have heard of others’ experiences with her that have made them feel attacked, outcasted [sic], and downright disrespected,” Skroch wrote on Facebook.

Carnahan’s challenger

In a highly-criticized move, Carnahan announced her support in September for MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s potential gubernatorial run, a pledge that helped convince state Sen. Mark Koran to run against her.

“That showed a lack of understanding and treating people fairly,” Koran told Alpha News this week. “We can’t pre-select candidates. If that’s what we do, it’ll permeate through congressional districts, and if people don’t trust the endorsement process, we can’t keep people involved.”

Sen. Mark Koran/Minnesota State Senate

A 57-year-old serving in the Minnesota Senate since 2016, Koran represents parts of Chisago and Isanti counties. He has more than three decades of experience in the public and private sector as a small business owner, and several years as a Minnesota Department of Revenue manager, which he considered a “priceless education.”

“The enthusiasm of the past few years seems gone, so we need a new ground game that asks how we can build an organization that brings in everyone who shares our ideas,” Koran said. “We need to get back to basics, drive great policy, and build a farm league of vetted, qualified candidates. The gross overreach by Minnesota Democrats provides an opportunity to capitalize and bring people into the party. We can’t push anyone away due to drama, personality conflicts and threats.”

The St. Paul native has used “Leadership Without Drama” as a campaign slogan, and says the party needs a “new direction and overhaul.”

“2022 and 2024 are transformational years, and I can’t wait to be on the front lines,” Koran said. “Having an activist and legislator as chair is a massive advantage because it brings the entire political spectrum together. My responsibilities give me knowledge that can’t be obtained unless you’ve served in office.”

Neither Carnahan nor her staff responded to multiple requests for comments.