Republicans talk about Election Day losses in Legislature, amendments

Republicans expressed a certain mystification over the thumping they took on Election Day.

“Nobody saw it coming,” said Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, a 14-year veteran of the House, of Republicans losing the Legislature, a congressman and two amendments.

“I was surprised,” said Jeff Johnson, Minnesota Republican National committeeman and Hennepin County commissioner. “Honestly, I don’t know (what happened).”

What happened, for sure, was Republicans had a bad night.

After languishing for some 40 years under a Democratic majority in the Senate, Senate Republicans two years ago seized control in the Republican-wave election and spoke of a new era. But the era was more of an interlude.

Republican Senate election “losses” included Ted Daley in District 51 (Burnsville and Eagan) and Chris Gerlach in District 57 (Apple Valley, Rosemount and a portion of Lakeville), who resigned from the Senate earlier this year.

The District 57 seat was won by former Rosemount High School Principal Greg Clausen, who is the first DFL senator in the Apple Valley-Rosemount since 1989.

In the House, the list of the Republican fallen includes Diane Anderson (District 51A), Doug Wardlow (District 51B) and a House seat created by redistricting that was won by DFLer Will Morgan, a past state representative from Burnsville.

“I don’t think it was a lack of work ethic,” Johnson said. “Our candidates didn’t leave anything out there. And it wasn’t a lack of enthusiasm.”

Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, points to the presidential race as a source of loss of Republican steam.

“This time the October surprise was a hurricane,” Kiffmeyer said, blaming Hurricane Sandy for sapping the momentum of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Kiffmeyer, who carried the photo ID amendment in the House, believes in regard to the failed amendments, photo ID and the marriage amendment, it wasn’t the case of doing one amendment when they should have done the other.

“I don’t think it would have made any difference at all,” Kiffmeyer said.

Abeler views several things revolving around the amendments that could have added to Republican misfortunes.

For one thing, the marriage amendment invigorated college students in a way President Barack Obama was no longer doing.

“It was something to rally around,” Abeler said.

Beyond this, Abeler wonders whether Republican leaders asked enough questions from the groups who wanted to see the amendments on the ballot.

For instance, did someone inquire into whether photo ID supporters had the financial means to counter attacks on the amendment, such as from former Republican Gov. Arne Carlson, they should have known were coming.

As for the marriage amendment, Abeler doesn’t believe Minnesota churches backed the amendment to the same degree that churches in other states did.

Abeler argues the House could reverse back in two years.

“I presume the DFL will overreach,” Abeler said.

Abeler believes voters by next election will be thinking about DFL tax increases, perhaps same-sex marriage legislation and other social issues.

“They’re (Democrats) going to have the same problems with the left that we had with the right,” Abeler said.

Johnson believes Republicans can bounce back.

He said Republicans first need to analyze what they’re doing, possibly reshape its message and reestablish its finances.

And this can be achieved, Johnson said.

Kiffmeyer indicated that she has no intentions of abandoning photo ID.

“I’ll take the governor at his word,” Kiffmeyer said of Gov. Mark Dayton who has committed to crafting a bipartisan photo ID legislation.

Republicans were caught off-guard by the election results.

“I think the planets all lined up,” Abeler said. “Everything that could go bad went bad.”