Blake Huffman Launches Campaign for Governor

Blake_Huffman.jpgIt is official.   Blake Huffman, the first candidate with electoral experience to seek endorsement from the Republican Party in the race for Minnesota’s next Governor has officially declared his intentions.

Huffman, 52, is coming off a recent successful reelection campaign for his seat as Ramsey County Commissioner, District 1.  Huffman was first elected in November 2012 after retiring from Wells Fargo as Vice President of Strategy.

Huffman’s campaign website  indicates his focus will be on jobs and the economy, housing, education, and most importantly, his ability to get things done.

Jobs and Economy: In an April 19  press conference  (video) to announce his candidacy, Huffman asserted his, “primary focus is supporting private sector job growth.”  He pointed out that while Minnesota’s official unemployment rate is low; the under-employment rate was, “far too high.” 

For comparison, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Minnesota’s unemployment rate in 2016 at approximately 4.0%. Meanwhile, the United Health Foundation  estimated that Minnesota’s under-employment rate was double that,  at 8.2%. 

Housing:  According to Huffman’s campaign website, he believes, “one of the foundations of a great community is providing citizens with stable housing and a place they can call home.” 

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Leadership Changes in CD3, CD5 and State Party Organization

April Conventions have elected new leaders for GOP CD3 and CD5, and a new Chair of the Minnesota Republican Party will be selected this weekend.

Contributions of Outgoing MN GOP Chair Downey Recognized

Downey_recognition_plaque.jpgOn March 23, Keith Downey presided over his last Lincoln Reagan Dinner as Chair of the Minnesota Republican Party.  The Elephant Club Board of Directors presented him with a plaque recognizing his contributions to the party.  The plaque read, in part:

“To Chairman Keith Downey, In Grateful Appreciation for your Courage, Leadership, Service and Dedication selflessly offered on behalf of the Republican Party of Minnesota during a time of great challenge and culminating in one of our Party’s greatest successes.  2013-2017”.

Senate District 49 is proud to count Keith Downey as one of its own.  Upon the end of his term on April 29, we will welcome him back and look forward to his continued contributions to our Republican Party.

Congressional District 5 Leaders

On April 6, Congressional District 5 Republicans met to elect officers for the next 2 years.  Five Edina precincts, east of Wooddale and north of the Crosstown, are part of Congressional District 5.  It also includes the cities of Minneapolis, Richfield, St. Louis Park, Golden Valley, Hopkins, New Hope, Crystal, Robbinsdale, Brooklyn Center, Fridley, Columbia Heights, Hilltop and St. Anthony.

David Pascoe, the past chairman is running to be the Deputy Chairman for the Minnesota Republican party.

Jesse Pfliger will be the new chairman of Congressional District 5.  He lives in Crystal with his wife Elise and 4 children.  Jesse ran for the Minnesota State Senate from SD61 in 2012.  He has been an officer in SD61 and his current home of SD45 in addition to various positions within CD5.

Bob Olson was re-elected as Deputy Chair.

Mitch Rossow was re-elected as Secretary.

David Tribbals was elected as Treasurer after having served as Deputy Treasurer.

Congressional District 3 Leaders

The new CD3 Officers are:

Chair:  Patti Meier

Deputy Chair:  Vince Beaudette

Secretary:  Carol Kerr

Treasurer:  Ryan Rutzik

Vice Chairs: Sheri Auclair,  Vicki Ernst, Anja Kroll, Danny Nadeau, Sherry Perra, Jim Schultz, Cathie Zimmerman

Pitchers and Politics: A Successful Exchange of Ideas

More than 50 people stopped in April 20 for a beverage, a bite to eat, and a wealth of informal exchange of ideas. Hosted by Senate Districts 44, 48 and 49 the Pitchers & Politics event was clearly a success  - small enough to be comfortable, large enough to meet a good cross-section of Republicans of all ages from the Southern & Western suburbs.

Snippets of conversations heard from a side table: 

small_P_and_P_Best_1.jpg“Did you hear that a GOP candidate for Governor declared last night?”

“How do we make it easier for working adults to connect with us?”

 “I was a Watershed Commissioner – have you seen what’s happening now?

 “Wasn’t election night last Fall AMAZING?”

“Do you have any city elections this fall?”

“I’m a new Precinct Chair.  It’s tough getting people to talk with each other.”

 “I enjoy volunteering with Meals on Wheels. There are lots of elderly still in their own homes.”

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Legislative Update as of April 24 2017 - Progress on Transportation

highway-construction-site-1891641__340.jpgIn interviews last week, Rep. John Petersburg, R-Waseca, was optimistic that legislators will be able to agree on transportation funding this year. Petersburg is vice chair of the House Transportation Committee and serves on the transportation conference committee currently hammering out differences between the House and Senate transportation bill.

He said the bills under consideration will bring major investments in roads and bridges around the state, and in particular, in the long-delayed completion of Highway 14.

“Much more so than last year,” he said April 21, when asked about avoiding an end-of-session meltdown. “The deadlines are much earlier this year. We’re working on omnibus bills now a full four weeks before end of session.”

The Marshall Independent wrote that there are strong indications that a major transportation bill will pass and be signed into law this year.  State legislators have made headway on developing a bill, and Gov. Mark Dayton has indicated he’d be willing to move forward without a proposed gas tax increase.   Those comments “really are encouraging,” Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, said Friday. It’s a sign of recognition that a transportation bill needs to pass, he said.

Last year’s transportation bill foundered in part on disputes over funding for Metro-area light rail and other transit. Petersburg said the House bill largely leaves the matter alone, keeping funding at current-biennium levels, although Petersburg noted the legislature is pursuing reforms in the metro area that would make it more willing to spend on the projects.  “Because [the Metropolitan Council] can be given some taxing authority, it seems like they should have some accountability to the voters as well, which in this case they are not,” he said. “One of the provisions in the bill is that the Met Council is not allowed to move forward with projects until they get approval from the legislature, just because there’s the expectation the legislature will come up with some of the funds.”

You may read the full interview articles at the Owatonna Peoples Press site and the Marshal Independent website

Jeff Johnson: Resistance is not Futile, but it's Tough Right Now

-Jeff Johnson provided his unique insight on the Hennepin County government and the Metropolitan Council to a large audience at the Senate District 49 dinner program on March 28.  It was clear from his remarks that both bodies are dominated by members who are not hesitant to address local issues by expanding government-funded services.  Johnson, Hennepin County commissioner from the 7th District, finds himself often the lone voice pointing out the misguided initiatives that waste taxpayer dollars.

Commissioner Johnson also spoke about the on-going contention over additional light rail extensions, including the Southwest Light Rail project.  To hear his remarks, please check out the SD49GOP video recording

He encouraged us to contact Rep. Erik Paulsen to express our support for proposed federal funding cuts for new light rail projects (the New Starts fund), for both SWLRT and the Bottineau Line project. At a cost of $124 million per rail mile (compared with $1-2 million per road mile), and a benefit of perhaps a 2% reduction in congestion, these projects just don’t make sense.

On the Metropolitan Council, Johnson pointed out that the 17 members are appointed by the Governor and accountable only to the Governor.  The current board is, in Johnson’s words, “completely out of control.”  For one reason, they have grown too large.  They have a billion dollar operating budget and an eight billion dollar capital budget.  They have over 4,200 employees for what is supposed to be a regional council.  And they are out of step with every other regional authority like them in the country. 

The federal government required each large metropolitan area to have a regional authority to disburse certain transportation funds.  If you look at the top 20 regional authorities in the nation, the Met Council’s operating budget is more than twice the size of the second largest (Portland, OR).  The budget is larger than the combined operating budgets of the 4th through the 20th largest regional authorities.

The Met Council is totally unaccountable to the voters.  It has the authority to levy taxes, which has grown to $80 million in property taxes.  They can take property through Eminent Domain.  This lack of direct accountability alone, in Johnson’s opinion, is sufficient reason to eliminate this organization.

Small_EldonSpencer_MaxRymer.jpgSmall_KathyFrey_Company-01.jpgPhotos from Dinner:  Newly-appointed Bloomington City Councilman Eldon Spencer (Left) speaks with Max Rymer.  Kathy Frey and table guests discuss topic before dinner.

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Bloomington Mayor Winstead Presents "State of the City"

Bloomington Mayor Gene Winstead presented a “State of the City” summary to a mostly-over-60 audience at the Bloomington Community Center on March 28.  As noted in a Sun Current article, the mayor feels that Bloomington has an “image” or “public perception” problem rather than significant specific issues that need to be corrected. (Based on an 2016 survey completed by about 1,000 Bloomington households, summarized on city’s website here)

Mayor_Winstead_with_Sawyer_Haaland_mayor-for-a-day_1.jpgImportantly, the city plans a property tax levy increase of $50 million, principally for storm water system improvements and new trails.  We note that the big-picture city financial report ignores the $4.1 million in Franchise Fees first collected in 2016.  The fee imposition was justified to cover maintenance of roads & trails pavement. A request for Franchise Fee detail at the meeting was acknowledged by the city manager a week later, but information was not provided in time for inclusion in this article.

The Cedar Avenue historic bridge reconstruction project was very costly -- $13 million.  $1 - $2 million was covered by property taxes.  The rest came from Mall of America taxes paid into the state’s Fiscal Disparities funding pool, disbursed back to Bloomington for the project.  The bridge was opened for pedestrian and bicycle use in 2016, but will be closed for the remainder of 2017 for road reconstruction and trailhead parking lot rebuilding.

Two major paved bike trails (one a state trail) will be constructed.  A Minnesota Valley 2-track paved trail along the river has $2.1 million in state funding.

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Legislative Update April 3, 2017

A bi-weekly update, as of April 3, 2017 compliments of the Public Affairs Office, House Republican Caucus:


Minnesota Premium Security Plan (reinsurance) – Gov. Mark Dayton allowed the state-based Minnesota Premium Security Act/Reinsurance to become law without his signature on April 3.  Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman testified during the conference committee process that the Act could reduce premium rates by 20%.

The Governor felt that the reinsurance should be funded with a new tax, this one on the industry itself.  Such a new tax is not part of the law.  Instead, the Act taps the Health Case Access Fund and the General Fund.  The Republican-led legislature also rejected the Governor’s proposal to expand the state-run MinnesotaCare.  The Governor continues to promote government “single-payer” options over the competitive marketplace to solve problems. This despite the problems created when earlier marketplace constraints implemented under MNSure failed so clearly.



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Legislative Update March 22, 2017

A bi-weekly update, compliments of the Public Affairs Office, House Republican Caucus:

  • Draining the Swamp in St. Paul (continuing story) --In December, it was revealed that temporary DFL campaign staffers were taking advantage of job loss benefits provided by the state after the election.  The Job Growth & Energy Affordability Policy and Finance Committee is making changes to the Dislocated Worker Program to address this abuse.

  • Minnesota_Way_Leg_Update.jpgBudget the Minnesota Way (#MNWay).  House Republicans released a budget that respects taxpayers while investing in key middle-class priorities like tax relief, road and bridge infrastructure, education and lowering health care costs.   Highlights:

  • $1.35 billion in tax relief – the largest of any proposal so far this session

  • $450 million in new funding for road and bridge infrastructure -- more than doubling current general fund investment in transportation

  • an overall budget target that ensures a sustainable level of state spending for the next biennium – the lowest of any proposal and indicative of House Republicans' continued focus on slowing the growth of state government spending

    The budget resolution containing the targets will serve as the framework for Finance Committees as they construct their budgets.

  • Republican Omnibus Transportation Budget bill, called the Minnesota Road & Bridge Act, was unveiled. The bill invests $6 billion over the next decade, with $2 billion spent in the next two years alone, without raising the gas tax.
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New SD 49 Executive Committee Sets its Course


The newly-elected members of the SD 49 Executive Committee met on March 6 to set its objectives and priorities for the next two years.  Several retiring members of the Executive Committee were invited to help assess the current state of the senate district, identifying its strengths and opportunities to grow.

Co-Chairs Randy Sutter and Wayne Wenger led the meeting.  The attending members of the new Committee included Beth Beebe, Nancy Carlson, Mary Doughty, Noah Harber, Angie Hasek, Lane Hersey, Mike Lehmann, Vince Riehm, and Louis Tiggas.  On hand to provide their perspective were Greg Beam and Barbara Sutter

Randy Sutter remarked that Senate District 49 is considered one of the stand-out senate districts in the state.  He attributed that to the loyalty of its core members and the strength of its programs.  He challenged the new officers to work with him and Co-Chair Wayne Wenger to build on those strengths. 

The new Executive Committee agreed to organize their efforts around Candidate Search, Precinct Building, Communications, Outreach, Fundraising, and Programs.  Committees are being formed in support of these efforts.  Volunteers are welcome to work with the Executive Committee members on one or more of these committees.  CLICK HERE to let us know you would be interested.

Meet Baby Harvey Rymer

Harvey2.jpgHello, friends! During this past campaign season, you may remember that my wife and I were preparing to add another little statesman to our growing family. We’re so happy to report that Elsie and I welcomed Harvey Richard Rymer into the world on March 1st at 1:55 PM. He weighed in at 7 lbs 7 ounces and 20 inches long.

Both mother and baby are healthy, happy and resting. I was able to take time away from the business for a week, which was extremely helpful for both of us! We are excited to introduce you all to Harvey at conventions and Senate District functions. We’re certainly starting him young teaching him about the Lord, conservative values, and why things like our local BPOU matter. I am reading him Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom” currently. Our goal is to have him be a precinct chair by age 9. We’ll see if that happens ;-)

Thank you all for your support of Elsie and me during her pregnancy while campaigning!

Max Rymer






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