Errant email tips off GOP messaging strategy

As the Minnesota House prepared to debate Gov. Tim Walz’s public health emergency powers Friday, House Republicans got some advice from their caucus leadership: focus their remarks on public safety issues, not the coronavirus.

Rep. Jon Koznick, R-Lakeville
State Rep. Jon Koznick, R-Lakeville.
Courtesy of MN House of Representatives

“Stay on message if you speak today,” wrote Rep. Jon Koznick, a Lakeville Republican who’s the House assistant minority leader, in an email. “COVID issues are not our winning message. PUBLIC SAFETY is our ticket to the majority, let’s win with that.”

But Koznick accidentally sent the email not to his fellow members of the House GOP, but to the House DFL, who promptly shared it to reporters and the public. 

It’s not unusual for lawmakers to coordinate their talking points and strategy before a big debate, or to emphasize issues or angles that they believe are more politically persuasive. But the advice to avoid the subject of the day’s debate was more surprising.

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Democrats responded to the misfired email with glee. House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, tweeted that in fact, he agreed with Republicans: “Minnesotans do not trust them to protect their health and safety during a pandemic. There’s a reason why.”

Koznick and the House Republican caucus did not respond Friday afternoon to requests for comment on the email.

In fact, the House GOP didn’t seem to take Koznick’s advice Friday. During the debate on Walz’s emergency powers, plenty of Republicans talked at length about the coronavirus in their speeches.

Brian Bakst contributed to this report.