The tide is turning for conservatism in Minnesota, says Tom Emmer, the Republican endorsee for governor.
"There's a wave that's building in this state, and there's a wave that's building all across this country of freedom-loving Americans who do not like the direction that their state and their country is moving," Emmer said Friday night as keynote speaker to a Beltrami County Republicans dinner.
"They're concerned about the future of their children and their grandchildren," said the Delano Minnesota House member. "And those people are just like me, and they're waking up all over the place."
Looking around the Bemidji High School Commons at about 250 diners, Emmer said, "You are that wave. St. Paul hears it coming."
Emmer led a speaker lineup that included most of the Republican candidates on the fall ticket - local House and Senate candidates, three judicial candidates, constitutional officer candidates and both 7th District and 8th District U.S. House Republican candidates.
"The people on the inside of the walls of Congress are not listening to the people on the outside of the walls of Congress," he said, in support of 8th District candidate Chip Cravaack and 7th District candidate Lee Byberg.
"John Persell might be a nice man, but he doesn't represent Minnesota values," Emmer said. "Mayor Lehmann, you do."
He was supporting the candidacy of Bemidji Mayor Richard Lehmann, who is opposing Persell, DFL-Bemidji, for House 4A.
"Minnesota is ready for a new majority, a Republican majority," he said. "It is time to do the rebranding that we talk about. We don't have to change, we just have to honor what we stand for."
Real and authentic candidates must be offered he said, and they must regain the trust of the public.
"We are about smaller government. We are about individual liberty and economic freedom," Emmer said.
"It's not just about winning," he added. "Once we win, you've got to walk the walk. If we do, Minnesota will be a better place and the Republican Party will be elected for years to come."
He cited state auditor candidate Pat Anderson's remarks that Republicans must campaign up and down the ballot as a team.
"This is not Tom Emmer running for governor -- this is our time," Emmer said. "This is us running for the governor's office, running for secretary of state, running for the auditor's office and, yes, running and winning the Attorney General's Office for the first time since the '60s."
Minnesota Republicans represent Minnesota values for Minnesota's future, said Emmer, who wrested the GOP endorsement from Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall.
Sixty percent of the people are split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, he said, but that doesn't make the middle 40 percent moderate independents. "They're freedom-loving Americans, and they are awake."
They used to belong to parties, but the parties did not honor their promises, he said. "They walked away from politics ... they didn't want to be associated with one or the other."
They are now awake and many are aligning with the Republican Party, Emmer said. He cites Massachusetts, where 28 percent of the people crossed over to vote for a Republican for the U.S. Senate seat.
The message of those people to Democratic leaders, Emmer said, is "we do not like your bailouts and you ignored us; we told you we do not want cap and trade and you don't seem to want to hear us; and now we're telling you do not force socialized medicine down our throats."
What he called "freedom-loving Americans" fits the Tea Party movement well, although Emmer did not mention them by name. He said the "freedom-loving Americans" are showing up at meetings and want a voice.
"Those freedom-loving Americans identify with our values," Emmer said, "our values of limited government and smaller government, our values of individual liberty and economic freedom. Those are the people, if we gain their trust, will join with us next fall when we sweep through the election Nov. 2 and take back majorities ..."
Emmer said Republicans need to elevate their message, that what Republicans stand for is what Minnesotans stand for.
"We are Minnesotans," he said. "We believe in a future for our children. We believe in our right to self determine. We believe in a right to be the best you can possibly be without having government get in the way to tell us what that is.
"That's what Republican values are, and guess what? Those are Minnesota values," he added.