The Republican primary in the special election to fill the seat left open by former Representative Tony Cornish's resignation is blossoming into a meadow muffin toss, with Cornish himself becoming a target for fellow Republicans.
At the Mankato Free Press, Troy Mewes reports in Reporter's notebook: Cornish bucks local GOP, endorses Sanders:
. . . The local Republican scene got a shock over the weekend when former Rep. Tony Cornish publicly endorsed Scott Sanders, of St. James, to replace him in House District 23B.
The Free Press doesn't usually write about endorsements. There are often far too many to keep track, and more often than not, they don't mean all that much to the average reader.
But this is out of the ordinary: Cornish, who resigned last November due to multiple sexual harassment allegations, announced his decision on Sunday to endorse a candidate in the upcoming special election. What's more, Cornish is backing the candidate the local Republican Party didn't choose.
"I've worked with this guy, I knew him," Cornish said of Sanders. "I didn't know (Munson). I just figured this guy had actual farming experience and actual governing experience, two things I thought would actually be good."
In the past, area lawmakers who resigned for whatever reason generally kept out of the politics involving their seats. Cornish, however, is no ordinary former lawmaker. He's well-known for speaking his mind, and he still retains a lot of popularity within his former district — parts of Blue Earth, Watonwan, Le Sueur and Waseca counties.
Cornish decided to make an endorsement because he's still getting calls and questions from residents who want to know who to support in the upcoming election.
Sanders welcomes Cornish's endorsement. As a Watonwan County commissioner, Sanders worked with Cornish in the past on local issues. . . .
Cornish isn't the only area Republican to support Sanders. A source reports that Blue Earth County commissioner Will Purvis has a Sanders sign on his property near Vernon Center, and Sanders signs have blossomed on the usual Republican lawns that spouted Cornish signs in the past.
Mewes reports House Transportation Finance committee chair Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, who owns property in the contested district, has endorsed Sanders, as has House District 23A state representative Bob Gunther, R-Fairmont, chair of the Legacy Funding Finance Committee. Mewes also notes:
Munson has picked up endorsements from the state GOP, Republican 1st Congressional District candidate Jim Hagedorn, and several Republican gubernatorial candidates — Rep. Matt Dean, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson and former state party chair Keith Downey.
Letters supporting Munson, while tossing meadow muffins at Sanders and Cornish are sprouting in local papers. The Fairmont Sentinel collects a set of three here:
To the Editor:
On a wintry night last month in Mapleton, 80 percent of the Republican House District 23B delegates voted for Jeremy Munson on the first ballot at our endorsing convention. The delegates consist of 189 volunteers who took the time to learn the issues, meet both candidates, and heard Mr. Munson and Mr. Sanders speak and discuss pertinent issues.
Prior to the endorsement vote, both candidates agreed to honor the delegates’ selection.
On the last day allowed, Mr. Sanders filed to challenge the officially nominated candidate. Evidently, this was not a “last-minute” decision, as signs and mailers had already been prepared. Apparently, Mr. Sanders’ campaign had been revived and reorganized by a group fearing Mr. Munson’s candidacy, complete with financing, organization, press releases and “volunteer” staffing prior to Mr. Sanders’ filing.
Recently, former House District 23B Rep. Tony Cornish, whose recent resignation was the impetus for the impending special election, published an endorsement for Mr. Sanders on his Facebook pages. Among others, Mr. Cornish’s prepared statement included references to Second Amendment and pro-life issues. However, Mr. Munson has been endorsed by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life. He has also received the highest possible scores from the Minnesota Gun Owners’ Caucus and the Minnesota Gun Rights Association.
I and many others have supported Mr. Cornish in the past as volunteers and contributors in his campaigns. So this recent display of disrespect to District 23B Republicans is, at very least, disheartening, and we question Mr. Cornish’s motives to reject the wishes of the 23B delegates.
The timing of Mr. Sanders’ “last-minute” decision to challenge our official endorsement has already caused our rural voters who vote by a mail-in ballot to have precious little time to vote in both the primary and general special elections. It is arguable that these specifically-timed actions have essentially disenfranchised many voters.
I encourage everyone to vote for Jeremy Munson in the primary election on Monday, Jan. 29. Mr. Munson is not a career politician, and his potential election to the Minnesota House is obviously feared by the “establishment” faction at the State Capitol.
We cannot allow non-local special interest groups to select our local representatives.
Dr. Jeff Taylor
What else will he ignore?
To the Editor:
Time and time again, we in out-state Minnesota have seen our voice smothered by St. Paul special interest groups with their own agendas. The House District 23B seat, vacated by Tony Cornish, special election is not about who is the nicest guy — Munson or Sanders. It is also not appointed by the past representative.
The Republican candidate for this seat was duly endorsed by a record-breaking attendance of delegates and alternates from the four counties of Watonwan, Le Sueur, Blue Earth and Waseca to the endorsing convention this past Dec. 21. The endorsed candidate is Jeremy Munson. The delegates were properly elected by the people in every precinct in our area and are the real people who live in rural Minnesota and who critically looked at both candidates to see who better understood the issues facing the people in our district. More importantly, they chose the candidate they thought they could trust to listen to them, not St. Paul pundits. After meeting both Munson and Sanders, and having had the opportunity to listen to them give speeches, show the depth of their understanding and debate the issues, the delegates turned out the endorsing convention in record numbers. Eighty percent of them voted to endorse Munson on the first vote.
We need a representative who will not ignore the endorsement of the dozens of men and women who came out in a blistery, cold night to vote. What part of our interests is Mr. Sanders going to ignore next if he cannot even be faithful to the endorsement?
Renee T. Doyle, alternate
House District 23B
HD 23B must decide
To the Editor:
Tony Cornish just spit in the eye of every Republican caucus-goer who voted for delegates to represent them at their county conventions and for the responsibility of endorsing candidates for the Minnesota House and Senate. He did so by personally endorsing someone other than the GOP-endorsed candidate. These delegates are the folks we ask to vet the candidates and endorsed the best one. Tony’s judgement has been compromised, in more ways than one.
I will miss Tony for his work on Second Amendment rights and his work for law enforcement. His spending, public union support and willingness to raise taxes were not his strong suits. Tony liked and voted for big government. You might not know that without looking at his voting record.
Tony used the system when it was convenient for him but now he wants a say as to who represents us House District 23B. I don’t think he deserves a say in that because his judgement has been compromised as evidenced by his actions. Tony resigned and left us facing a special election, and that is totally on him.
Both Republican candidates worked through the process and asked for the delegates to support them. After the vote was taken, mor ethan 75 percent of the delegates voted for Jeremy Munson. Pretty overwhelming, I’d say.
Jeremy is the candidate who will work to protect our Second Amendment rights, your freedoms in Minnesota and, on top of that, he runs a business that helps companies run more efficiently. We sure could use that in the state House.
He has been endorsed by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life and has received top scores from the gun groups in Minnesota. I’ve been to the gun range with Jeremy and knows he has a healthy respect for our rights.Jeremy has also signed a pledge to not raise our taxes, and I believe he will work to lower them.
Draining the swamp of insider politicians in the Minnesota House who want to control us must start here by not allowing them to defeat Jeremy Munson because he is “conservative.” We need true conservatives in St Paul who are willing to fight for us and not work against us behind our backs for the big government insiders and lobbyists, just because Cornish wants us to. Have you looked at how much government has grown and taxes have made us not competitive with other states since Cornish took office?
We don’t need people who want to make government bigger and look to bring home the “pork” for their special interests and bike trails. We need roads, bridges and infrastructure to get our grain to market and encourage business growth in southern Minnesota. Jeremy knows this.
Jeremy’s opponent didn’t gain the respect of the delegates and now I have to wonder if he is just another politician who says one thing and does another.
Sen. Al DeKruif, retired chairman, Le Sueur County Republicans
DeKruif's letter was reprinted outside of the district in Alpha News as Editorial: HD 23B must decide: Drain the Swamp or Add to it while columnist John Gilmore explored the contest in Jeremy Munson, The Republican House Mafia & The Primary Race In 23B.
Surely they'll all join hands and sing Kumbaya after the primary.
Photo: Paul Torkelson speaks for Scott Sanders at the endorsing convention. Via Mankato Times.
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