During last night's Minnesota House floor debate over the health care insurance exchange, viral social conservative state representative Glenn Gruenhagen opened his speech with an observation to the effect that his statements would be as outrageous as ever.
He did not disappoint.
A friend well versed in the institutional history of the Minnesota House chatted us up with the reminder of the Glencoe conservative's path to power. First, he took the seat opened by the retirement of the youthful Laura Brod, now a Regent of the University of Minnesota and president of Norm Coleman's Minnesota Action Network.
Had she remained in office one more term, she could have retired when redistricting would have put her in the same turf as Kelby Woodard.
Instead, Gruenhagen replaced her. Although many political observers are just now discovering the Glencoe insurance agency owner's colorful political sentiments, these utterances are nothing new. In his first term, he called for the castration of sex offenders and for women to beware of the destructive power of male sexuality--and the destruction of Alfred Kinsey's research.
But the Gruenhagen-for-Brod switch wasn't the only downward trade the Republican Party of Minnesota made once Glenn was elected. Redistricting placed Gruenhagen and former Representative Ron Shimanski (R-Silver Lake) in the same turf. Shimanski had been Bluestem's representative, and while we found him to be far more conservative, he wasn't given to the outlandish or embarrassing statement.
Indeed, as a family farmer and orchard owner, he was pretty good on ag issues. Gruenhagen? The fact that the Farm Bureau didn't endorse him in 2012 speaks to his puzzling record on ag.
But at the 2012 Republican endorsing convention for 18B, Republican delegates chose Gruenhagen over Shimanski. Where did Gruenhagen come from? The base of the party in these parts, but few observers believe that he's an improvement over Brod or Shimanski.
One irony rising from this downward spiral is that Brod now writes in a column in the Pioneer Press, Some facts Minnesota conservatives can't ignore:
Conservatives in Minnesota sense serious trouble. Beset by internal conflagrations, and a political party that is buried deep in debt and a brand image with the public that is at historic lows, they are looking for a platform that can help them celebrate and advance their ideas. . . .
In a recent poll done by the Minnesota Action Network, some key facts emerge that conservative activists and policymakers cannot ignore.
-- In Minnesota, there is an 18 point gender gap between the DFL and Republicans, and a significant split on social and economic issues with young people that will continue to grow.
-- The middle class of Minnesota does not believe conservatives understand issues facing them, that we are out of touch and that we don't listen to their concerns.
-- Minnesota conservative activists and leaders may believe our problem is messaging, when in fact, Minnesota independents and many others believe we are too consumed with social issues.
-- If the issue is the economy, conservatives find more support
-- If the issue revolves solely around social issues, at the expense of economic and overall quality of life issues, conservatives will continue to lose ground. . . .
Gruenhagen, ushered into office by Republicans following Brod's retirement, is now the viral face of Minnesota Republicanism, from twitter to Hardball. It's a brand Minnesota conservatives twice selected--and they had choices.
It's a fact conservatives can't ignore.
Photos: Laura Brod (top); Ron Shimanski (bottom).
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