In Popular Cokato Township wingnut provokes Republican kerfuffle over Urdahl stadium vote, Bluestem posted about a hissy fit an uber-conservative activist was pitching against the Acton Township author and legislator.
Now the Litchfield Independent reports out on the details of last night's gathering in Urdahl lashes out at Republican Party meeting. Political theater doesn't get much better than this.
Andrew Broman reports on the shenanigans. First, in a table-pounding fury, Urdahl defended his vote as a move to preserve the Republican Party:
State Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Acton Township, voted in favor of building a new Vikings stadium to help preserve the Republican’s majority in the legislature, he told a group of Meeker County Republican leaders Monday evening.
Responding to criticism within the party over his stadium vote, Urdahl turned visibly upset at a Meeker County Republican Party Executive Committee meeting held in Litchfield at the Main Street Cafe.
“Was the Vikings bill the most important thing? No, it wasn’t!” Urdahl shouted as about 20 people listened inside a small room at the back of the cafe. “But it was what the people wanted us to do.”
While standing, Urdahl slammed his hands on a table as he chastised fellow Republicans for calling Monday’s meeting to consider whether to withdraw the party’s endorsement for Urdahl. Urdahl told the group that “all the things you cry for” would have been sacrificed if he and other Republicans had failed to pass the stadium bill.
“This was a vote to help preserve our majority,” Urdahl said.
So much for the good of the state as a whole. Bluestem hates to ask what the local activists are crying for.
And then there's the paper wad throwing:
At the end of his speech, Urdahl crumbled a piece of paper containing prepared remarks and threw it in the direction of State Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson. Showing an expression of dejection, Urdahl then sat down in a chair.
After the meeting, Newman joked that he “ducked” out of the way of the flying paper. “He’s just frustrated,” Newman said. “We’re all a little frustrated. It was just a contentious session.”
Newman described Urdahl’s outburst as out of character. “I have not seen him act like that, ever,” Newman said.
Urdahl today defended himself as so not a table-pounding, paper-throwing kind of guy:
After the meeting, Urdahl acknowledged his frustration. “I’m known as a mild-manner, laid-back person,” Urdahl said. On Tuesday, Urdahl clarified that he was throwing the paper to his wife, Karen, who sat near Newman at Monday's meeting. Urdahl said he told his wife the paper was "for the book" that he planned to write about his legislative experiences.
Some residents of the Grove City area might well beg to differ, as tales of Urdahl's temper are the stuff of local legend. Perhaps he has mellowed out in his old age.
Local Republicans are worrying that the attack on Urdahl is a disaster in the making:
Several party members attending Monday’s meeting said withdrawing Urdahl’s endorsement would fracture the party, potentially benefiting the Democrats in November’s election. “It would be a public relations disaster,” said Bruce Cottington, a member of the executive committee.
This isn't the first time Urdahl has faced endorsement woes. In 1996, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported:
And averting a potential embarrassment to Republicans in House District 15B, 31-year-old lawyer Drew Hultgren had a sizable lead over Dean Urdahl. Urdahl ran for the seat twice before and came within 170 votes of winning in 1994. But lawsuits filed by creditors and charges that he passed bad checks led Republicans to deny him party endorsement and recruit newcomer Hultgren to run against him. (Lynda McDonnell, "Lourey Leads Chmielewski," St. Paul Pioneer Press, September 11, 1996, accessed via Nexis All-News May 15, 2012)
In a remarkable political come back in 2002, the Urdahl campaign deflected a DFL caucus mailer which revived the bad check story that cost Urdahl both the Republican endorsement and primary in 1996. According to a young conservative activist of the editor's acquaintance, the Republican Party became aware that the DFL caucus was conducting message testing of the bad check story early in the campaign. When the mailer was sent in the final week of the campaign, the Urdahl campaign was prepared: Karen Urdahl took full responsibility for the bad checks in an open letter which explained that she had been depressed at the time she wrote them.
Given the presence on the ballot of Constitution Party candidate Phil Jarman, the race for the open seat created by the retirement of moderate Republican Bob Ness was thought to be competitive, as Jarman had the potential to siphon off conservative votes. But a mailer perceived as a smear, underscored by the anti-DFL backlash created by the Wellstone memorial at the U of M, gave Urdahl the edge, and kept the DFL candidate to 39.2%. This DFL low mark wasn't bested in the old 18B until the 2010 Republican wave year.
And in 2010, Urdahl was endorsed after three ballots, despite being unopposed, as more conservative base questioned Urdahl's conservative cred. The temporary snub reflects the local GOP's rightward turn, with the local Constitution Party members joining the GOP. Former Representative Ness now works for Blue Dog Congressman Collin Peterson.
Redistricting traded parts of conservative Wright County for part of conservative McLeod County in Urdahl's district. It's likely that Urdahl will continue to run to the right.
Disclosure: Bluestem's editor is a volunteer for Nancy Larson, the DFL endorsed candidate running against Dean Urdahl.
Photo: Dean Urdahl, paper wad tosser and table-pounder. Well, maybe just last night.