If Independence Party hopeful Steve Wilson was seeking the Republican endorsement, Congressman Walz might have good reason to worry. Since the conservative former Republican is pursuing the IP label, CD1 Republicans may have reason to pause instead.
An active member of an Assembly of God congregation in Rochester, Wilson can boast of impeccable conservative credentials on his resume, if he were the sort to brag. Embedded with the US Army in Iraq, he worked toward that country's reconstruction by helping small businesses get their start-up. A small businessman himself, he consulted for Land O' Lakes, assisting dairy farmers in creating business plans. Heeding the notion in Matthew to tend to "the least of these," Wilson founded a rural ministry at the Coyote Crossing Christian Ranch that served at-risk children and created a successful mentoring program that matches adult Christian role models with the children of incarcerated adults.
His political passion, however, is working to reduce the national debt, and he was a speaker at a well-attended forum on the issue in November, sponsored by the Rochester Tea Party Patriots.
RTTP activist Laura Zaborowski wrote up the presentation for the group's website.
On November 19th, over 100 area residents attended an extremely educational, and at times entertaining, program on the current National Debt crisis to learn more about the crisis our nation is facing. Steven Wilson and Bill Plummer first provided a foundation, explaining the difference between the national debt and a budget deficit. Then they exposed the irresponsible, deceiving accounting practices Washington uses to 'balance' the budget or even create a 'surplus' while putting our nation deeper and deeper in debt. At one point during the evening, Steven and Bill performed what they referred to as a One-Act -Play which drove home the point: Deficit Neutral does NOT mean Debt Neutral.
The write-up includes links to ten Youtube clips documenting the evening. It's interesting: Wilson is a speaker who sticks to rational argument, avoiding the sloganeering and anger so often associated with the Tea Party movement. The final segment--a Q & A--reveals his style. Wilson points out that reducing national debt will involve real pain for those in the room. Just watch:
An interesting side note: Representative Randy Demmer--one of the hopefuls for the Republican endorsement in the seat--occasionally appears in the lower left corner of the video.
So why is teabagger-friendly Steve Wilson seeking the Independence Party endorsement? His faith seems as conservatively Christian as that of Quist and Engstrand, his opposition to terrorism matched with that of Jim Hagedorn, his personality equal to that of the genial Demmer.
Given his political pedigree, Wilson's Independence Party bid might not draw from the left side of the aisle in the way in the way fromer DFLer Roy Srp did in the recent SD26 special election did, nor does Wilson come to the IP from the DFL like former congressman Tim Penny. I'm guessing that the staunch conservative is somewhat like IP gubernatorial hopeful Joe Repya, who left the party in disgust at what it had become. Moreover, Wilson is less given to the rhetoric of contempt, while being more comfortable with the politics of deeds over words.A new statement on his campaign website, Wilson responds to President Obama's call for a stop to partisan wrangling, illustrates the latter point. Wilson's own political history illuminates the former theory of the case. In April 2006, Wilson was endorsed by the SD Republicans over the hand-selected Senate Minority Caucus candidate, Meg Walch, and the ambitious Steve Drazkowski, after a bitter run-up to the convention. The Minnesota Senate Republican caucus campaign committee and Republican Party of Minnesota then honored Wilson's local endorsement.
A lit piece lacking proper disclosure had been sent out attacking Drazkowski by bringing up his arrest for assaulting his teenaged daughter--charges upon which, lurid as the police and court records might be--Drazkowski had been acquitted. Claiming that the piece had ruined any chance of endorsement by convention delegates, Drazkowski broke his promise to abide and decided to primary Wilson. He also filed charges against two caucus staff members.
When the charges were dismissed, then-RPM chair Ron Carey called for Drazkowski to withdraw from the race. He did not and won the primary.
The Republican Party didn't throw its support to Drazkowski for several weeks following the primary, finally endorsing him in October.
Senator Steve Murphy handily defeated Drazkowski in November 2006; Drazkowski won a special election in 2007 to fill a Minnesota House seat vacated by the retirement of fellow Republican Steve Sviggum.
That Wilson had no part in the actions allegedly conducted on behalf of the caucus --on behalf of Walch--didn't stop the Drazkowski bid. Wilson's campaign was a victim of the crossfire in the bitter dispute. Collateral damage, one might say, but apparently enough to make him seek a more hospitable party label.
It may be very difficult for Wilson to raise the sort of money necessary to get his message out--and so he shares the same problem facing the Republican hopefuls, given their meager fundraising so far. None seems likely to reached the performance guides of the NRCC's "Young Gun" program. Moreover, Wilson's presence in the race demonstrates that CD1 Republicans shouldn't take the votes of Tea Party activists who are not also Republican activists for granted.
We've all been told by Rochester Republicans that there are many Tea Party activists at their events who are not Republicans; indeed, Olmsted County Chair Bruce Kaskubar was quite annoyed with the Post Bulletin for suggesting as much last summer.
How many Rochester Tea Party Patriots will find an Independence Party candidate who shares their values a better vessel for their anger and frustration?