Beltrami County Republicans urged to support McCain

Beltrami County Republicans favored former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, but Arizona Sen. John McCain is who they got. "What John McCain has done may not be quite in line with conservatives but, looking at his Web site, there's a huge difference b...

Beltrami County Republicans favored former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, but Arizona Sen. John McCain is who they got.

"What John McCain has done may not be quite in line with conservatives but, looking at his Web site, there's a huge difference between McCain and Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama," Ken Cobb, Beltrami County Republican vice chairman, told fellow county GOP delegates Saturday.

"The biggest are with abortion and judges," said Cobb, as the Beltrami County Republicans held their convention at Northern Elementary School.

While the Democrat presidential race tightens between Clinton and Obama, McCain now has enough delegates pledged to capture the Republican nomination when the national convention is held in St. Paul this September.

But 43 percent of Beltrami County Republicans favored Huckabee in a precinct caucus straw poll Feb. 5. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won second with 25 percent. McCain ended third at 17 percent.


McCain wants to overturn the landmark Roe vs. Wade case that legalized abortion and would appoint judges with like feelings, Cobb said. "Hillary Clinton calls Roe vs. Wade the touchstone of reproductive freedom, and Obama calls Roe vs. Wade key to reproductive choice."

On taxes and the economy, Cobb said McCain would seek a three/fifths supermajority in Congress to approve any tax increases and would hope to lower the corporate tax rate. Cobb called plans by the Democrats as "socialist" and promoting the view that "government is the panacea for all of society's ills."

Cobb said McCain "is not perfect, but he's a good man -- he has earned our full support."

"We do need to get behind the one person who can beat Hillary or Obama," said Kath Molitor, Beltrami County Republican chairwoman and not an original McCain supporter.

Jack Naastad, a long-time GOP activist, garnered more enthusiasm for U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., who is seeking re-election to a second term and faces stiff opposition from at least three Democrats -- Al Franken, Mike Ciresi and Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer.

Naastad got a rousing "Coleman! Coleman! Coleman!" out of the 109 voting delegates and three alternates.

"Step up for Norm because he's stepped up for us," he said.

As mayor of St. Paul, Coleman created 18,000 new jobs, Naastad said, brought back National Hockey League play and held the line on taxes and spending. In the Senate, as chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations when the GOP was in control, Coleman identified $12 billion in waste, fraud and abuse.


He also called for the resignation of the United Nations general secretary in light of the Oil for Food scandal, Naastad said, and has worked for "smart judges" to be confirmed, and has supported Gen. David Petraeus and his force levels in Iraq.

Naastad's son, Anthony, is stationed in Iraq and "they tell me they're accomplishing what we're asking them to do," Naastad said.

"Sen. Coleman stands behind the leadership and recommendations of Gen. Petraeus and has confidence in his ability to build on our success in places like Anbar and continue to fight and win the war on terror," he said.

Naastad, referring to Franken as "Big Al," said the satirist will appeal to the "fringes of the liberal base," and will make for a challenging election. "Wouldn't that be a big joke for Minnesota?"

Naastad also called for rallying around candidates who can win in the general election, alluding that Coleman not always supports the Bush administration and is a former Democrat.

He said some Republicans may not like all of what a candidate stands for, but there has to be enough to win elections. "There will be movement to the middle, because our 30 to 40 percent will never win elections."

The main chore of the convention was to elect delegates to the 7th Congressional District Republican Convention April 18-19 at Moorhead, the 8th Congressional District GOP Convention March 29 at Hibbing and the Minnesota Republican Convention May 29-31 at Rochester.

Molitor and county party Treasurer Barb Zentek are automatic delegates to the 8th District, and county delegates elected John Carlson, Ann Fleet and Amber Allen as delegates, as well as a slate of 10 alternates.


Cobb is an automatic delegate in the 7th, and county delegates elected as district and state delegates Chris Hogan, Mark Skogerboe, Rick Hoff, Angel Krigbaum, Tony Williams, Ben Siiemens, Tim Tingelstad and Carol Campbell. They also elected 18 alternates.

The county party enters the election year with $887.52 in the bank, Zentek said, with that growing Saturday with $500 in registration fees and at least $450 in donations given Saturday.

There were outside speakers to the convention, only a delegate, Tony Williams, who announced his bid for the House 4A seat held by Assistant House Majority Leader Frank Moe, DFL-Bemidji.

Molitor took the podium to blast the recent legislative override of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto of a $6.6 billion 10-year transportation funding package that includes an 8.5-cent-per-gallon gas tax hike. Six House Republicans joined the DFL to override the veto.

"The Democrats and six quasi-Republicans voted to increase the gas tax," Molitor said. "They turned their backs on all of us and our governor."

Molitor said she e-mailed her dislike to the six GOP House members, but got only an automated response from Rep. Kathy Tingelstad, R-Andover, that she only answers e-mail from her Coon Rapids area constituency.

"I e-mailed back that the people of Coon Rapids elected you, but you represent the state of Minnesota," Molitor said.

The local group plans a soup social fund-raiser 5-8 p.m. April 5 at the Hampton Inn & Suites, but no speakers have been lined up. It is hoped local and state legislative Republican leaders may attend.

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