Ron Paul Getting Backing of Most Minnesota Delegates to Republican National Convention
Roseville's Mark Zasadny among Paul's backers.
Minnesota’s delegation to the Republican National Convention will not back Mitt Romney when the party gathers in Tampa next week. Instead, 32 of the state’s 40 nominating votes will be cast for Ron Paul during the roll call of states, according to Marianne Stebbins—chair of the delegation.
Stebbins lives in Excelsior and was elected by Minnesota’s contingent of 77 total delegates, 37 of which are alternates, as chair earlier this year. While conceding Romney would capture the GOP endorsement for U.S. President, Stebbins said her state’s delegates are “overwhelmingly Ron Paul supporters” and made clear they would vote accordingly.
“I don’t think Mitt Romney is a strong candidate,” she said. “He represents old ideas and what the party has stood for over the last couple of decades, which is not necessarily what the voters want.”
Roseville delegate also a Paul supporter
Mark Zasadny, Roseville's only delegate the GOP's national convention, echoed similar thoughts. "I intend to vote for Ron Paul," said Zasadny, a Republican activist for several years and unsuccessful Republican state senate candidate in 2002. "I think Ron Paul has demonstrated more fidelity to the (U.S.) Constitution over his career."
While there remain rank and file Republicans who are “still sore” following Ron Paul’s strong showing in Minnesota’s caucus back in February, Stebbins says she has been feeling more acceptance of late and believes many in the party recognize Ron Paul’s level of support.
“They understand that we mean the party is growing, and that there are growing pains when an organization is growing,” she said. “But we’ve brought in so many people—disaffected Democrats, Independents, Libertarians and people who had been sitting on the couch and not interested in politics. We are growing the party, and it’s not always easy when there is a conflict of ideas.”
Zasadny said he realizes the odds "look overwhelming" for Paul in challenging Romney. Still, he said he expects the convention to be interesting and Paul's supporters to exert their influence in shaping the platform of the national Republican Party.
"I hope we are not just big cheerleaders for Romney," Zasadny said.
Not trying to destroy the Republican Party
David Arvidson, the Republican challenger for Minnesota House District 46B, echoed those sentiments and said Ron Paul supporters like him aren’t trying to destroy the Republican Party; they’re trying to save it. Arvidson is contemplating writing in Paul’s name come election time.
“It’s a curious thing, and it’s politics at work,” he said. “It’s a grassroots movement trying to have an effect at the national level. To me, the two parties have become either big government or big business, and we just think it should be big people.”
Stebbins also stressed Ron Paul supporters are “not abandoning the party” and many are volunteering for a variety of Republican candidates seeking state and federal office this fall.
Minnesota is not the only state in the Union sending a healthy helping of Ron Paul delegates to next week’s Republican National Convention. A large percentage of delegations from Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts and Maine also back Paul. A deal was reportedly struck Tuesday afternoon between Paul supporters and the Republican National Committee that would seat more Paul delegates and allow Paul’s son, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, to speak during primetime in exchange for Paul supporters not holding up the nomination process.
For her part, Stebbins has supported Ron Paul since he first declared his candidacy for president back in 2007.
“At one point the campaign asked me to coordinate Minnesota, in late 2007, and so I did that,” she said. “We had decent success for that year and elected six national delegates. Of course the 2008 state convention was pretty infamous for the party kind of squashing the Ron Paul movement.”
When the Texas congressman and face of the Libertarian Party again announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination in 2011, Stebbins was among the first to join his campaign.
“In the fall of 2011 they asked me to chair the Minnesota campaign,” she said. “We went ahead and did what needed to be done. This movement is just getting started. You’ve got people here in Minnesota who are just now running for city council. So those people aren’t on the radar yet. Some of those will win and some won’t, but that’s where it starts. Those are the acorns, the shoots, that will spread out.”
Romney is scheduled to visit Minnesota this week for a pair of fundraisers in the Lake Minnetonka area—a reception at the Lafayette Club in Minnetonka Beach and a private dinner at a home in Shorewood. Stebbins said she would not be attending either event.
Stebbins is herself a candidate for public office this November. She has declared her candidacy for the Excelsior City Council and will run against two others for a pair of seats up for grabs. It’s not her first race for public office. After moving to Minnesota after high school the New York native ran for State Senate back in the 1990s to represent Richfield’s district.
Stebbins has been active in the Republican Party for more than two decades and has been a state delegate most of that time. She has volunteered for “untold” campaigns during those years, and defined Libertarians as “classical liberals” who believe in controlling their own lives and self-determination as opposed to having government controlling their lives.
“I’ve put a lot of effort into the Republican Party, but I’ve always been fairly liberty minded," she said. "So when Ron Paul ran it was a natural fit for me. Practical liberal and Libertarian are fairly similar. Modern liberals came out of the progressive movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s. There is obviously quite a distinction now, however modern day liberals have a lot of good things about them.”