Kendall Qualls and Lacy Johnson excited the audience at Senate District 49’s annual fundraiser on November 22. Both are running as Republican candidates for Congress in 2020 against freshmen DFL incumbents. As moderator Max Rymer pointed out, these candidates offer fresh perspectives, private sector experience, and personal life stories that will make them very compelling to voters.
Lacy Johnson (seated on the right) is seeking the Republican endorsement to run in Congressional District 5 against Rep. Ilhan Omar. He has lived and raised a family in north Minneapolis for 40 years. He worked in computer engineering before going into business to bring technological jobs to his district.
Kendall Qualls (seated on the left) is running in Congressional District 3 against Rep. Dean Phillips. Early on in his life, he experienced the divorce of his parents and witnessed the street/drug culture in Harlem as an elementary student. His adolescent years were spent in a trailer park in Oklahoma. Qualls worked to pay his way through college and served five years as an officer in the Army. He personally saw while serving on the Demilitarized Zone in Korea what a difference Freedom can make to the prosperity of a people. Out of the Army, he pursued a career first in sales and marketing of health care products, then switched over to medical devices.
Why are they running?
Lacy Johnson decided to run to offer his conservative values as a counter to the mindset fostered in his friends and neighbors in north Minneapolis by the Democrats who have been in power for a long time. It is a mindset that looks to government programs and not personal responsibility to solve local and personal problems. Lacy says that if something hasn’t worked for decades, it is time for a change.
Kendall Qualls wants to bring his life experiences to bear in Washington DC. He also believes that the narrative that America is a racist country needs to change. He has received help along the way from people black and white, rich and poor, male and female. We certainly have bad actors in our culture, but they do not define our country. He is not going to let people get away with continuing a negative narrative about the USA.
How are they going to message to voters in these districts?
Qualls knows that answers that he gives cannot appeal just to the intellect. They must more often appeal to the heart. We need to bring out the essence of the value of the policy that we support. What does it mean to the voters and their families? As an example, Qualls pointed out that Dean Phillips ran as a moderate. Yet he has voted 95% with Ilhan Omar, who is clearly not a moderate. Phillips has not acted in the way that voters in the 3rd District expected that he would.
Lacy Johnson sees two key challenges to the Republican Party in the urban districts of Minneapolis. First, the media is pervasive and it is one-sided. In their busy lives, without access to balanced coverage, people take to heart the one side that they hear. The media even gives the Democrats credit for their bad ideas. Second, the race of the messenger does matter to people in the inner cities. Black families are largely conservative. The Republican message could well be a winning message if conveyed by the right messenger.
Johnson went on to say that it will take a long-term investment. Republicans will only be successful if they put political resources into the inner-city neighborhoods with a view to the future. He stressed that many voters in his neighborhood are open to a conservative message. Once they admit that party really doesn’t matter, they soon realize that the party in power has not delivered on its promises.
Both candidates promised that their campaigns will not sink to the identity politics of the Democrats. They believe that Republicans should stand strong in support of the American values of freedom, opportunity, and personal responsibility. They made a number of other points in an impressive discussion that lasted over an hour.
We’ll soon have the video edited, so you’ll be able to get a sense of these two great candidates. Stop back here in about a week for a viewing link.