Law student captures Republican backing

by Brian Close

Two University students vied Saturday for the Republican endorsement for the state House of Representatives at the District 59B caucus at Northeast Middle School.
Rob Fowler, a University law student, defeated fellow College Republican Tom Gromacki for the nomination. He will face 25-year incumbent Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, in November.
Fowler listed several issues on which he would concentrate, most important being campaigns against a bill that would ban smoking in bars and another that would raise taxes.
“There’s no need for any new taxes when you have a $1.9 billion surplus,” he said after he received the endorsement.
Fowler worked in the public defender’s office in Rochester, Minn., before he quit to run for the seat.
Fowler said his time away from class now will be filled with work toward his campaign. One focal point, he said, will be the importance of the University in the district.
“There’s no way any Republican can win without the University of Minnesota,” he said, referring to the number of University students in the district.
For Gromacki, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts, this was his second attempt at Kahn’s seat. Gromacki had the party’s endorsement in 1996.
Gromacki, who said he predicted before the caucus that he would not win, praised Fowler, calling him “diligent” and “committed.”
He also said he was thankful to have a chance to voice his opposition to abortion to Republicans present at the caucus.
“That’s an issue that is going to come up time and time again,” Gromacki said.
Fowler’s supporters include several female University students who are concerned about a halfway house for sexual offenders in their neighborhood, which includes several sorority houses and apartments. The house is located in Dinkytown near 11th Ave. S.E.
The women claim their cars have been vandalized and they have been jeered at and harassed.
“I’ve seen and heard obscene things,” said Amy Turner, a sophomore in CLA who lives near the halfway house.
Managers for the halfway house were unavailable for comment.
The women said they approached Fowler about getting a resolution on the Republican plank. The resolution, which signifies the party’s support for an issue, is a ban for halfway houses for sexual offenders near schools.
In addition to the endorsement process, delegates were chosen to move on to the 5th congressional district caucus and the state convention.
A poll of delegates showed them to be overwhelmingly in support of gubernatorial candidate and St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman, with several others in support of Lieutenant Governor Joanne Benson and former state representative Allen Quist.
The delegates will now represent District 59B at the state convention, where the Republican candidate for governor will be chosen.