**Update: On Thursday March 1, 2012 Pete Hegseth announced his candidacy for the MN GOP’s endorsement for U.S. Senate. He did commit to abiding by the GOP endorsement for whoever it is. Thank You Capt. Pete Hegseth!**
Republicans welcome a new candidate seeking to be our next United States Senator from Minnesota, Pete Hegseth. Hegseth brings to the table a commendable resume: Princeton graduate, Iraq War veteran, and the executive director of an inactive national group called Vets for Freedom. He has never run for office, so he has no legislative record to stand on. However, a Google search of his name will reveal a lot of YouTube videos of him testifying at Senate hearings and appearing on network news channels.
He enters the race at a time when two candidates have dropped out. Anthony Hernandez and Joe Arwood announced the end of their campaigns on Monday leaving former Minnesota State Representative Dan Severson as the only other candidate in the race.
Minnesota Republicans are buzzing about this handsome new candidate. But little is really known about him. His campaign website has only a video bio and links to his Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts, plus a tab to donate to his campaign. There is no Issues page, no About page, virtually nothing to go on. All we know is what we have been provided by the media and what he has said in the past, which amounts to little substance.
Regardless, the biggest question that grassroots activists are asking is: Will Hegseth seek and abide by the GOP endorsement or will he go straight to the primary to win the Republican nomination?
In the past few days we have been reading a lot about Pete Hegseth “just entering the race” as an “outsider.” What he doesn’t have is a clear cut answer to this important question of Republican etiquette. In a Star Tribune article on February 21st Hegseth is quoted as saying, “We’re not taking the nomination for granted…We’re not jumping in here thinking this is our nomination to have.” The Associated Press followed up, but left open the primary question. “‘We intend to win the endorsement,’ Hegseth said, but would not say what he’d do if another candidate gets it.”
Minnesota has a two-tier nomination process. A political party’s nominee is not picked by a party’s endorsement. A party’s nominee is technically picked in the primary election. In other words, a candidate receiving the party’s endorsement will not necessarily be on the general election ballot in November. The candidate on the ballot will be determined by the primary election held on August 14, 2012.
For example, Margaret Anderson-Kelliher was the endorsed DFL candidate to run in the 2010 gubernatorial race. Despite this, the nomination battle continued within that party through the primary with two other candidates, ultimately resolving with Mark Dayton as the DFL nominee after the primary election.
By contrast, the Minnesota Republican party has a different sensibility. There is an unwritten understanding among candidates and grassroots activists that the results of GOP conventions shall be respected. If a candidate wins the endorsement, it is expected that they will go unchallenged in the primary election. For example gubernatorial candidate Marty Seifert had every right to run until the primary election against the GOP endorsed candidate in 2010, Tom Emmer. Yet he chose not to. He respected the party’s endorsement and dropped out of the race so Emmer could focus on challenging the DFL candidate.
In regards to Pete Hegseth, the AP alluded to the right question, but did not pursue an statement. Many in the grassroots are seeking that answer. Will Pete Hegseth respect the endorsed candidate after the state convention, or will he ignore the party delegates like many DFLers do and drag the nomination out until August?
In a letter addressed to party officials, MNGOP Chair Pat Shortridge recently reiterated his stance that candidates not willing to abide by endorsement shall not benefit from party resources. As Hegseth proceeds with his campaign, having already appeared before BPOU conventions and having benefited from access to delegate lists, it is important that Hegseth promptly confirm his commitment to abide by the party’s endorsement in May.
Hegseth’s sole opponent, Dan Severson has made such a commitment and has long engaged party activists. Severson recognizes the willingness of delegates to give of their time and effort to vet the best candidates to carry the Republican brand through November. Respect for the delegate/convention process is one of the many characteristics which separates the MNGOP from the DFL.
Captain Hegseth, will you abide by the our party’s endorsement?