Delegates at the Republican Party State Central Committee on Saturday approved a two-year party ban on 18 high-profile Republicans who supported Independence Party candidate Tom Horner for governor in the November 2010 election.
The list includes former GOP governors Al Quie and Arne Carlson and former U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger, and GOP donor George Pillsbury.
The motion, which passed on a 59-55 vote, forbids them from being Republican delegates or attending the Republican National Convention in 2012.
Republican Party Chair Tony Sutton said the vote reflects unhappiness that Republican Tom Emmer trails Democrat Mark Dayton in the recount to determine the winner of the governor's race. Dayton is leading in the race by about 8,800 votes.
Delegate Jim Newberger of Becker said Emmer might be ahead in the recount, were it not for the Horner endorsements.
"These people, their money and their influence, possibly cost us 8,000 votes," said Newberger. "These are some big names, but it's time for the Republican Party to grow a spine. Either you're a Republican or you're not."
Opponents of the measure said it makes the party look vindictive.
"We can't exactly take away a former governor's title," said Jen De Journett of Maple Grove. "We can't vote people out who may or may not live in this state, and we're going to look like a bunch of goofballs."
Party Chair Sutton acknowledged the motion will be difficult to enforce, but he said it grows out of party members' frustration over the outcome of the governor's race.
"The governor's race was very close, and they feel like they wanted to send a message that, 'Hey, you can't just say that you're a Republican and then go off and support the other person. That isn't right.' And I think that frustration is part of the venting that took place here today," said Sutton.
The State Canvassing Board is expected to certify the winner in the race on Dec. 14.