Some 2,100 delegates at the Republican Party State Convention today (May 18) in St. Cloud have begun balloting on the U.S. Senate endorsement.
Convention-goers heard from the three main candidates — Rep. Kurt Bills of Rosemount, former state representative Dan Severson of
- Rep. Kurt Bills, R-Rosemount, speaks with convention goers at the Republican Party State Convention today in St. Cloud. (Photo by T.W. Budig)
Sauk Rapids, and Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran Pete Hegseth of Stillwater, and a lesser candidate — prior to the start of balloting at about 1:30 p.m.
In the first ballot, Bills won 1,135 votes to 501 for Severson and 450 for Hegseth.
But it was not enough for Bills to gain a first ballot endorsement — 1,281 votes are necessary — so balloting will continue.
Speaking prior to the speeches, Bills, pausing off the convention floor, indicated that his campaign had momentum.
“It’s going to tough to stop the force,” said Bills, an economics and government teacher at Rosemount High School.
The Bills campaign has a school bus parked in its hospitality room at the St. Cloud Civic Center painted with themes from the campaign, such as Bills bringing Economics 101 to Washington.
Bills discounted the idea that his fortune was linked to the strength the supporters of Texas Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul could exert at the convention.
Paul has endorsed Bills.
“Follow the endorsements,” said Bills, arguing the breadth of the endorsements that he has gained reveals a broader base than just the Ron Paul contingent.
Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina, a Bills campaign official, argued that Bills occupation as a teacher — a nontraditional kind of Republican candidate — would resonate with voters.
In his speech to the convention, Bills argued that the political forces confronting Republicans and the country of overspending and bloated federal government extend well beyond Democratic U.S Senator Amy Klobuchar.
“Trust me, Amy Klobuchar is not the giant we are facing,” he said.
- Pete Hegseth addresses the Republican Party State Convention in St. Cloud. (Photo by T.W. Budig)
“We need integrity — a leader,” said wife Cindy Bills, addressing the convention about her husband.
Hegseth, like the other two main candidates, showed a video in which fellow soldiers testified to Hegseth’s fitness for office.
Hegseth announced his candidacy in March, shortly after the 31-year-old captain returned from deployment with the Minnesota National Guard in Afghanistan.
Addressing the convention, Hegseth joked that he had been in some dangerous places, but one of the riskiest is the space between Klobuchar and a photo opportunity.
- Former state representative Dan Severson stand with family members shortly before addressing the convention. He spoke of bringing more minority people into the Republican Party. (Photo by T.W. Budig)
He saved some of his fire for some of his fellow Republicans.
“They go to Washington and they vote like Democrats,” Hegseth said of the perceived failure of some Republicans in staying true to party principles.
Severson brought the gaudiest display before the convention, a contingent of dozens and a line of American flags.
Severson, echoing a main them of his campaign, argued the future of the Republican Party is linked to the growing minority population in Minnesota.
In order to win statewide races, Republicans need to pick up the votes of “New Americans” in the inner cities, he explained.
And the party can do this, Severson argued.