Campus issues win vote for new Republican chair

Kristin Gustafson

Local politics won the battle against national campaigns in Wednesday’s election for campus Republican officers.
As the two candidates for the chairman position of the University’s campus Republicans debated each other’s platforms at the Newman Center, it was clear their visions reflected conflict.
Jake Jewell, an economics and political science junior, was rejected by the student group in his bid for the chairman and off-campus chairman positions. He said the group’s number-one goal should be re-electing U.S. Sen. Rod Grams, R-Minn., and “working closely with the state party and the state board.”
“We can use this as a volunteer organization and help get candidates elected,” Jewell said of the valuable resource campus groups can offer.
“We don’t have time to waste,” said Jewell, who is also an intern for the Minnesota Republican Party.
However, Mike Miller won the top position for the College Republicans at the University of Minnesota by focusing on the University’s community.
“I would never force the club to support a candidate,” Miller told the group in his bid for the position.
His goals focused on the campus — increasing the club’s membership to 500 and taking over the money and infrastructure of Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, a more liberal campus organization.
Miller also listed as one of his five goals electing local candidates from campus-area districts.
Michael Franklin, former campus Republican chairman and political science and history junior, said the vote reflected the group’s direction.
Going into the meeting, some members anticipated a conflict with the state group, which oversees the campus organization. The conflict centers on a question about the organization’s constitution and fairness of the group’s voting process. However, the state organization’s need for volunteers in November’s national elections was evident as an underlying agenda.
University Republicans defied their parent group by enforcing a rule excluding voting rights to members who failed to show up for at least three meetings during the past year.
The rule, formalized last year with the group’s new constitution, rewards loyal participants with more voice, Franklin said.
Regular members account for fewer than 25 of the 200 University College Republicans.
Fewer than 20 members showed up to vote Wednesday night.
The University’s parent group, Minnesota College Republicans, disagreed with the voting restriction and hinted at punitive measures.
The state group could refuse to recognize the newly elected leadership and call for new elections if they determined the campus group acted incorrectly.
“I have the authority to choose which is the official college Republican club,” said Eric Hoplin, chairman of the state’s group, before Wednesday’s meeting.
Hoplin previously stated he hoped the situation was a simple misunderstanding.
But to be sure, he sent Chris Tiedeman, a University second-year law student and treasurer of the College Republican National Committee, to the elections to guarantee fairness.
“That’s what my job is … overseeing that constitutions are followed, rules are followed and elections are fair,” Hoplin said.
However, Tiedeman showed little concern for the rule. “I’m not sure if the three-meeting rule exists here,” he said after he was allowed to vote.
He did not think the state group would contest the vote “unless it comes up that there is a constitutional question.”
Only political science freshman Aviry Truhe was denied a vote. Attending her first meeting, Truhe said she was not even aware there was an election.
“It’s an understandable rule,” she said. “People should be here and know what is going on before they can vote.”
Jewell, who lost both bids for an officer position, said he would not personally contest the issue.
He said student membership with the statewide Republican group has grown from 700 to 2,000 in the last few years.
Orlando Ochoada, former campaign committee chairman of the University College Republicans, said the conflict between the state and University groups is “possibly due to egos and young people who don’t know,” prior to the meeting.
“The role of the state board is to help facilitate the local chapters and not the other way around,” Ochoada said.