Politics and Government

Carnahan faces GOP leadership challenge from state Sen. Koran

A woman smiles and talks.
Minnesota Republican Party Chair Jennifer Carnahan speaks with an attendant of a rally for then-President Donald Trump in Bemidji, Minn., on Sept. 18. Carnahan faces a challenge from state Sen. Mark Koran for another term at the head of the party.
Evan Frost | MPR News 2020

About 350 of the most active members of the Republican Party of Minnesota meet virtually Saturday to decide whether Jennifer Carnahan remains state party chair. 

Carnahan, a business owner who is seeking reelection after first winning the chairperson post in 2017, said the party is more inclusive and on a stronger financial footing than it was four years ago.

But her challenger contends that the party is ready for a change. Mark Koran, a second-term state senator from North Branch, Minn., says he wants to improve the party’s operational structure and make better use of technology to reach voters. 

Carnahan’s list of accomplishments includes flipping three Minnesota congressional seats from blue to red during her tenure.

If successful, Koran says he would serve as party chairperson and state senator simultaneously.

The race between the two has been sometimes bare-knuckled, with Carnahan accusing Koran  of being a “man of no integrity,” and Koran suggesting that Carnahan and other party insiders played too big a role in some nominating conventions. Others have criticized party fundraising efforts, which Carnahan defends.

And while the party did well in many down-ballot races in 2020, former President Donald Trump fell short of his goal of winning Minnesota. 

On Friday, Carnahan said she is proud of her work to strengthen the party and is looking forward to the future.

“We’ve invited new people in. We’ve expanded our base,” she said. “But as with every organization, there’s always room for improvement and opportunities to do better. And that’s something that we strive for every day as a party and I strive for as an individual.”

Koran said he wants to improve the party’s operational structure and make better use of technology to reach voters.

“Our traditional political process has been pretty arcane, and we haven’t adapted much,” he said. “So, many people feel good and may not see the deficiencies that I see. So, that’s what we’ve focused on, about here are the core building blocks that if we never focus on these, we’ll never achieve the type of success that we believe we can achieve.”

The Minnesota GOP state central committee will also elect a deputy chair and secretary during its remote meeting.