(Photo: Convention chair Rep Albright and Parliamentarian Sen Mathews confer with Chief Teller and MNGOP State Executive Committeemember Keri Heintzman)
The saga of the Morrison County controversy continues, leaving many first time delegates questioning the integrity of their local party. Hundreds of delegates, many of them first timers, gave up their Friday night last weekend to attend an endorsing convention for the newly created Senate District 10. But they later found out, a four and a half hour convention would abruptly shut down without even a single vote count being tallied and announced to the delegate body.
A little backstory...Senate District 10 covers a geographical area with seven different counties. By Republican rule, that requires the counties to come together and make a convention call. Morrison County GOP, along with the 6 other county GOP units, announced two weeks ago that the endorsements for senate and two house seats would take place on the opposite side of the Senate District from the population center of Little Falls. And despite having three contested races, the seven counties decided to hold the convention on a Friday night.
Morrison County GOP is run by Mandy Heffron, a paid staffer for the Gazelka for Governor campaign. In February we exposed cheating by the Morrison County GOP that ended up removing duly elected delegates from the delegate voter rolls, replacing one with the wife of a legislator. Things were so bad in Morrison County that Congressional District 8 ended up running the Morrison County GOP Convention in March. Despite all of that, Heffron had an active role in the planning and running of the SD10 Endorsing Convention on Friday night.
The convention from the start lacked transparency. Convention rules were not made available to campaigns prior to Friday evening. Even at the convention, printed rules and agendas were scarce, leaving most delegates without the ability to see what was going to happen that night (this is rare). One campaign requested to see the credentialed delegate voter rolls for Morrison County and was denied access - meaning they could not validate that only duly elected delegates were credentialed. On top of that, paid guests and campaign volunteers were not allowed in the gymnasium, where the convention was being held (we've never seen that before).
Chairing the Convention was Rep Tony Albright (from Scott County), who was joined by Senator Andrew Mathews as parliamentarian. The evening began with some rules fights, mostly over allowing a candidate, Chuck Parins (30 year Army veteran), to compete against RINO Rep Ron Kresha that evening for the endorsement. Party leaders and Ron Kresha himself spoke against allowing it, citing a technicality in the rules - the same rules that were not made available until the night of the convention. So much for competition.
After the rules fight, the convention began the endorsement process for state senator. Three candidates (Nathan Wesenberg, Jim Newberger, Brent Lindgren) gave their speeches to the seated delegates. Balloting quickly followed and the votes were sent to a corner of the gym.
(Photo: Wesenberg campaign's speech before balloting)
Meanwhile, Chair Albright moved on to endorsement of House District 10A, asking delegates if they wanted to endorse Ron Kresha by voice acclimation. The measure failed and things got interesting. A delegate rose to a point of order, in an attempt to confirm with the chair that ballots with the name "Chuck Parins" would be counted according to the MNGOP Constitution, Article V, Section 3, A3. But Rep Albright and Sen Mathews ruled that ballots with Parins name would not be counted - a ruling that was clearly in violation of the state party constitution.
Regardless, votes were cast and ballots were collected. A pile of ballots had Chuck Parins name on them according to an observer of the vote counting. The Political Class looked to be in trouble that evening.
And then slowly, disarray started clouding the convention. Questions were raised about the correct number of ballots being cast in certain counties. Morrison County appeared to have filled out 11 ballots by unseated alternates, which would not be counted as legitimate votes. The organizers allowed delegates, seated alternates and unseated alternates to commingle during the convention. Confusion spread amongst the organizers and people were told Morrison County needed to revote.
Over two hours in, roughly 250 ballots for the senate endorsement remained uncounted. I don't know how that's possible unless someone didn't like how it was going to turn out. As 11 pm approached, it became evident that the "mission" of the endorsing convention was going to fail. Chair Albright announced that the convention was in recess and everyone went home.
(Photo: Delegates discussing the MNGOP Constitution's authority over convention rules with Chair Albright)
What happened on Friday night was a huge mess. Perhaps it was sheer incompetence on the part of the organizers. I'm not sure why Morrison County GOP is still in charge of organizing things. They cheated delegates on election night and their corruption led to Congressional District 8 hosting the Morrison County convention last month.
But there's speculation that things were more nefarious, than incompetence. Why were rules not published ahead of time, printed out in mass and distributed? Why were campaign staff not allowed in the gymnasium? Why did the Chair and parliamentarian violate the state party constitution to not allow Chuck Parins' votes to be counted? And why were non-GOP officials, like Joyce Heffron, mother of Morrison County GOP Chairwoman Mandy Heffron, in possession of ballots at one point in the night? Where did the 11 unseated alternate votes come from?
We may never know the answer to this question. But what is certain, the saga of Morrison County GOP controversy continues and the people who are most harmed are the new conservative activists who got involved in the Party to take back power from the Political Class. The Republican Party should be doing everything in its power to welcome these new activists into the ranks, instead of trying to protect the Swamp.
Summary of the Failed Senate District 10 Convention
1) Rules and agenda were not available in advance
2) Printed rules and agenda were not available at convention to most delegates
3) Guests and campaigns were blocked from entering convention
4) Campaigns were blocked from inspecting the delegate voter rolls in Morrison County (largest pool of delegates)
5) Chair Albright ruled that the MNGOP Constitution would not be respected
6) Ineligible votes were collected
7) Delegates, seated alternates, and unseated alternates commingled on floor
8) Vote totals were not completed and announced at the convention - No endorsements were made
9) Disgraced Morrison County GOP chair Mandy Heffron was able to run important parts of the convention
If you've followed this saga from the beginning, one may conclude that when you out organize the Political Class, they'll cheat. When you catch them at cheating, they'll use their power to put you at a disadvantage. When you overcome the disadvantage, they'll create rules against you. When you challenge their rules with the Constitution, they'll just shut down the convention.