A passage in an article in the South Washington Bulletin (via Outstate Politics) subtly underscores behind-the-scene tensions in internal Republican politics. In Kriesel, McNamara repeat opposition to tax hikes as budget fix, readers learn:
The pair of House District 57 Republicans expressed a willingness to stray from the party line, however — both said they support increasing gambling revenue. That’s at odds with a letter state Republican Party chair Tony Sutton sent to Republican lawmakers last week urging them to hold fast to finding a budget solution that uses no new revenue, whether from tax hikes, fee increases or gambling.
Of the letter, McNamara said, “I must have thrown it away.” He added: “We’re two people who don’t want to walk the talk of Chairman Sutton.”
It's not just Chairman Sutton's heartfelt personal opposition to gambling as a CAGE board member that prompted the letter. Opposition to the expansion of gambling is part of the Republican platform.
The 2010 ongoing platform states:
We seek to eliminate all state-sponsored gambling and oppose any expansion of gambling in Minnesota (page 7).
That's pretty clear, and the platform is a document upon which delegates to the state convention vote. But Kriesel and McNamara aren't the only ones who have decided to be cafeteria Republican. In Zellers: Sutton ain't my boss, MPR's Tom Scheck reported:`
As for new revenue, Sutton and GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said they oppose new tax increases. They were careful, however, to stay away from ruling out other revenue options like fees and gambling.
For the contest for a new male Republican National Committee (RNC) Member, the question of platform purity is complicated by the past stances on gambling by one of the two most high profile candidates--and the current professional contract allegedly held by another, who just withdrew from the race at the last moment.
Tom Emmer has played both side of the street on gaming. Last summer, AP reporter Brian Bakst reported in On gambling, Minn. gov hopeful Emmer is a paradox:
More than once, state Rep. Tom Emmer put his name to legislation authorizing horse track slot machines and video lottery terminals in bars. Another time, the GOP candidate for governor tried to outlaw gambling in Minnesota.
The conflicting stances are representative of Emmer's overall campaign, where one key adviser strongly supports racetrack gambling but his running mate helps steer a group set up to fight any expansion of gambling. . . .
So Tom Emmer split the difference.
The public affairs and public relations firm is rumored to hold a contract with the Minnesota Vikings in the sports team's quest for a new stadium. If he were to assist in obtaining public funding for a new stadium, Golnik too would have run afoul of the MNGOP platform. It states:
Programs, such as public broadcasting, sports stadiums, and the arts, should be funded by its users and voluntary donors, and not subsidized by the use of taxpayer money (page 2).
Where Emmer on stadiums? Last spring, MinnPost's Jay Wiener wrote:
As one DFL lawmaker told me last week, "Tom Emmer is the Vikings' worst nightmare."
If the Republican candidate for governor wins, his no-new-taxes, reduce-government penchant — like that of Gov. Pawlenty — could stall any effort to finance a stadium with any sort of public participation.
But by fall, that reputation had softened somewhat, though he didn't commit to state funding.
The two issues come together with proposals the fund a new stadium with expanding gambling, either by means of a racino or state-run urban casino. Since neither Golnik nor Emmer are in the legislature, neither would be put to the test. But as a RNC committeeman? What degree of platform purity will party activists demand in a party officer? Apparently Golnk's supporters are now tweeting that he's out--and yet he campaigned nearly until the very deadline tonight. Update: Tom Scheck tweets that Golnik's email cites his new infant and business demands as reasons for dropping out [end update.]
Disclosure: While I am personally agnostic about gambling and racino, Minnesota Farmers Union supports the proposal as a means for creating an additional income source--the breeding, care and feeding of racehorses--for Minnesota family farmers. Correction: This is not the position of the MFU; I was mistaken and I apologize for any confusion this incorrect statement has caused.
Photos: Ben Golnik (above); Tom Emmer (below).