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MAGA delegates push to remove state Republican leadership, alleging mismanagement

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MAGA delegates push to remove state Republican leadership, alleging mismanagement

Nov 27, 2023 | 8:45 pm ET
By Deena Winter
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MAGA delegates push to remove state Republican leadership, alleging mismanagement
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Dale Zoerb wore this getup to the state Republican convention to show his disgust for so-called RINOs, or Republicans In Name Only. Photo by Deena Winter/Minnesota Reformer

A contingent of right-wing Republicans wants to remove the leaders of the Minnesota Republican Party, including Chair David Hann, at the Dec. 9 meeting of the State Central Committee.

A group of delegates and alternates to the State Central Committee laid out their case in a letter for removing Hann, who was elected in 2021 after a federal sex trafficking scandal and allegations of a toxic work environment led to the fall of former Chair Jennifer Carnahan.

The state Republican party has been financially struggling — in part due to the cost of dealing with the Carnahan fallout — and divided over former President Donald Trump.

The insurgent group claims Hann failed to responsibly manage GOP resources and maximize support for 2022 candidates, contributing to a dismal election for Republicans in which Democrats won a trifecta. 

Hann said everything alleged in the document was “well known” when state officers were elected in December.

“There’s nothing of substance in it,” he said. “I just would hope no journalist would report allegations without any basis.”

Larry Doose, chair of Mille Lacs County Republicans and a State Central Committee delegate, said he is one of over 100 delegates and alternates to the State Central Committee who signed onto the letter seeking new leadership, out of about 900 total. They need two-thirds of about 350 delegates to vote with them to succeed.*

Doose said that’s a high bar, but he’s hopeful that “once people see the truth,” they’ll vote for new leadership.

“If they survive this then the people like me that have a problem can at least say we got heard … and we can all move on,” he said.

He said the group — which has dubbed itself Rebuild the MNGOP and is predominantly made up of the MAGA wing of the party — has been pushing to correct the problems for a couple months, and finally decided to go public. 

“There’s a lot of displeasure with our leadership,” Doose said. “Basically we want to move on and elect our candidates and not have this be a distraction.”

He said Rebuild the MNGOP is composed of newer people in the party, like him, who got involved after the 2020 election “because of what we saw happening” as well as other longer term Republicans.

“What unites us the most is the leadership; we have recognized that the leadership will not own up to problems or mistakes that they’ve made,” he said. “And there’s this sense of entitlement among them.”

The complaint alleges Hann has mismanaged donations to the party, jeopardizing its ability to raise money and receive national committee funds next year. They say the party paid off millions of dollars in debt from 2017 to 2021, but is now again hundreds of thousands of dollars in the red. That’s in part because the party paid $52,000 to vote electronically at the 2022 convention — instead of using “tellers” as was the procedure for decades — and spent $128,000 for audio/visual services at the convention instead of using the Rochester Civic Center’s audio/visual equipment.

Federal Election Commission reports show the party with $145,000 cash on hand, but $414,000 in debts. The most recent state campaign finance report, which doesn’t include any 2023 data, shows $8,000 cash on hand, and $76,000 in debts.

Doose and other signatories want details on attorneys working on litigation for the party, including their billable rates.

The complaint also alleges Hann violated the rights of state convention delegates in May 2022 by extending the raucous convention an hour past the set adjournment time, even though many delegates had left. They claim changes to the constitution made in that last hour were invalid, including extending certification of affiliates from one year to two and initially certifying the Hispanic Republican Assembly of Minnesota.

Doose said after delegates were told to leave, the convention reconvened and they “rammed through” a bloc of amendments. The group alleges Hann did not properly re-certify affiliate groups.

Doose said it’s important because once the party aligns with an affiliate group, that gives the affiliate influence in the party and a vote at the state convention, so when re-certifying them, “We are taking a look at their values and making sure they align with our party.”

In the runup to the convention, the State Central Committee failed to formally recognize a number of affiliate groups that add diversity to the party, including the Log Cabin Republicans of Minnesota and Asian American Republicans of Minnesota. The complaint demands to know how many events were held by the party to support affiliates last year, and how many events are planned next year.

The convention — where many candidates appealed to the very loud MAGA segment — was so heated that convention-goers were warned to leave their sling shots, flamethrowers, potato guns, large knives, irritant sprays and “hoards of insects” at home. (Real guns were fine.)

*Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the number of delegates needed to challenge the chair.