Tony Sutton elected as new chair of Minnesota GOP

Republicans have elected businessman Tony Sutton as the new chair of the Minnesota Republican Party.

The delegates elected Sutton on the first ballot. He received 195 votes, while radio personality Dave Thompson received 133 votes and former state Senator Carrie Ruud received 17 votes.

Sutton said he's committed to rebuilding the party.

"We've got to get back on track philosophically," Sutton said. "The party of fiscal responsibility was spending like crazy in Washington. We've got to regain credibility with folks for whom fiscal issues are important."

Sutton will be responsible for recruiting and backing candidates, organizing grass roots support and turning out the vote in elections. 2010 is a critical year because there's an open race for governor and every legislative seat is on the ballot.

The activists gave Gov. Tim Pawlenty a standing ovation before he addressed the crowd. He announced earlier this month that he would not seek a third term.

His speech was wide ranging, focusing on both state and national issues. He urged the activists to continue to push the core principles of the Republican Party. He also urged the audience to support whichever Republican gubernatorial candidate is on the ballot in 2010.

"Next year, we don't have a U.S. Senate race," Pawlenty said. "We can focus solely on the governor's races and the state legislative races. And this is only once in a twenty year or so phenemenon where we can focus exclusively on the future direction of Minnesota and Minnesota state-based races. That's going to have a dramatic effect and opportunity for our party. I predict we're going to have a good year."

A handful of candidates who have said they're running or are open to running for governor talked with delegates at the meeting. The list includes former House Speaker Steve Sviggum, former Rep. Bill Haas, current Rep. Paul Kohls, R-Victoria and Rep. Laura Brod, R-New Prague and state Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie.

Delegates also elected blogger Michael Brodkorb as Deputy Chair. Brodkorb, who writes for the website Minnesota Democrats Exposed and is also communications director for Republicans in the Minnesota Senate, said he will not blog when he takes his job on July 1. He said he'll focus on improving the party's technology and grass roots efforts. Brodkorb received 184 votes. He will replace current Deputy Party Chair Dorothy Fleming, who received 125 votes. Bob Swineheart received 30 votes.