MARSHALL - Former State Representative and Republican gubernatorial candidate Marty Seifert's name was on the minds of some people at a hectic state central committee convention Saturday, a day after party chairman Tony Sutton quit, but Seifert said Sunday he has no desire to fill Sutton's shoes.
"I don't have any interest in doing the job; I've had people ask me about it since he resigned, but I have zero interest in the position. I'm extremely happy with where I'm at and I relayed that message to them," Seifert said.
Seifert, who was beaten out by Tom Emmer for the Republican Party gubernatorial endorsement last year, is currently the executive director of the Avera Marshall Foundation. He said he received calls and texts inquiring about his interest in replacing Sutton shorty after Friday evening's Twitter announcement that Sutton was stepping down two years after being elected as the state party chairman.
Republicans captured both the Minnesota House and Senate for the first time since 1971 last year, but Seifert said the party is in a "challenged" mode. Not only is it looking to replace its chairman and protect its legislative majorities, it's also reportedly more than $580,000 in debt and owes $500,000 in a special recount fund stemming from Emmer's loss to Mark Dayton.
"It's an enormous amount of money to pay back, and all the legislative seats will be on the ballot next year, so it's an important year," he said. "If (Sutton's resignation) is going to happen, it's better that it happens now than six or eight months from now. We're not in 2012 quite yet, so there is some time for them to get a new person."
The party chose Saturday to delay action on the 2012 budget because of the personnel movement, but did elect a deputy chairperson for the next month in Woodbury activist Kelly Fenton, who won a five-way race. Fenton will serve as acting chairman until a successor is elected at a special meeting of the Central Committee, according to party secretary-treasurer David Sturrock.
The weekend shake-up actually left Sturrock, of Marshall, as the de facto acting chairman for about 21 hours.
"For the first few hours it seemed as though I was drinking from a fire hose as a number of quick decisions had to be made," Sturrock said in an email to the Independent. "I dealt with these tasks with a sense of melancholy as the last man standing - over the previous 10 months we have had turnover in the positions of chairman, deputy chairman, executive director and our two national committee posts."
Sturrock was charged with presenting the treasurer's report and answering myriad questions at Saturday's convention. Sturrock, who is not a candidate to replace Sutton, said Sutton was one of the most effective chairmen the party has had in many years and that he raised record amounts of monetary donations.
"On his watch the Republican Party took complete control of the Minnesota Legislature for the first time in 38 years; captured the 8th Congressional District for the first time since the 1940s; and came within a whisker of holding the governor's office despite a massive DFL spending advantage in that race," Sturrock said.
The next leader will take over a thinned-down group, since it has laid off about a third of its staff, including its executive director, the Associated Press reported.