Minnesota Republicans thin on money as parties gear up for 2024

Two men and a woman on stage captured on a giant video screen
The Republican Party of Minnesota still owes the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minn. for last year’s state convention as the party nears a decision on when and where to host its 2024 event.
Brian Bakst | MPR News

Minnesota Republicans are heading into the next election season low on money and way behind DFLers on that front, but state GOP Chair David Hann disputes characterizations that the situation is bleak for his side.

A federal campaign report filed last month by the Minnesota Republican Party showed just $53 on hand with more than $335,000 in unpaid bills at the end of May. The party was also low on available cash in its state account and carrying debt in its year-end report for 2022, including a still-outstanding rent payment for last year’s state party convention.

“Every political party has money problems. Every political party will tell you we always can use more money. But we depend on donors,” Hann said in a phone interview Friday, adding that the small-dollar giving base is picking up after a legislative session where a DFL-controlled state government swept through its agenda.

“The first half of the year has been a tough environment. But it has improved as people have seen the results of the legislative session,” Hann said. “I think there’s a lot of people that are upset about that.”

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Hann said the party is spending more than usual in an off-year setting to build up for the campaign year. That, he said, has led to the low cash on hand. He said the June federal report due this month will show a brighter picture.

A man in a suit in front of campaign signs
Republican Party of Minnesota Chair David Hann at the opening of a Somali Community Center in Minneapolis on Aug. 24, 2022.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

The next state report for parties isn’t due until January.

By comparison, DFLers have more than $676,000 banked in a federal account with no debt as of the end of May. The party also had a healthy state account balance at the end of 2022, dwarfing what bills it still hadn’t paid from that year’s campaign.

DFL Party Chair Ken Martin said in a recent interview that he doesn’t take glee in the GOP’s operational struggles.

“It gives me no pleasure to see what’s happened to the Republican Party in this state because I did come up in a time and day where you had two strong political parties competing over different visions and ideas for the state,” Martin said. “And both were able to win on those ideas. And in recent times, the Republican Party in this state has moved so far out of the mainstream of where most Minnesotans are at, they just can't compete anymore with the DFL.”

Aside from the presidential race, DFL U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s seat is atop the 2024 ticket. No major Republican has announced a challenge to her planned re-election bid, but Hann hopes for at least one entrant before the end-of-summer State Fair.

The GOP hasn’t won a statewide race since 2006.

Meanwhile, Minnesota Republicans still owe a Rochester, Minn. facility for last year’s state convention as the party nears a decision on when and where to host its 2024 event.

Both the 2022 DFL and Republican state conventions were held at the Mayo Civic Center.

Democrats paid the rental fee last fall. But according to Bill Von Bank, vice president of marketing and communications for the organization that runs the facility, Republicans still owe more than $21,000 in rent after a recent $5,000 payment toward the costs.

“We are in communication with them for payment of the remaining balance,” Von Bank told MPR News this week. “We do not have a confirmed timeline.”

Hann said it’ll be paid off before long.

“We got invoiced on that very late in the year,” he said. “But we are working with them, and we expect to get that taken care of soon.”

State Republicans are likely to decide in August where to hold their 2024 convention, which is on course to happen by mid-May. DFLers will hold theirs at the end of May in Duluth.

Both parties plan to endorse U.S. Senate candidates and settle on national convention delegates.