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week. This is clear evidence that the budget fight and government shutdown was worth it to help get Minnesota moving in the right direction. However, that is not why am writing you this letter. I am writing to you because I have decided to resign as State Chair of the Republican of Minnesota effective at 5:00 PM today. Being State Chair has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I have made many new friends, and seen and done some amazing things as State Chairman. I also have a great sense of accomplishment with the election victories we achieved in 2010. I truly feel that we have made a difference these past two and a half years (again, the recent budget surplus announcement is proof positive of that). I had decided to run for re-election last April because I felt I had more service to offer to the Party. However, the last several months have shown me that being State Chair has taken too much away from my family, and is taking too big a toll on me personally. I have worked for the Republican cause my entire adult life. I have made tremendous personal and professional sacrifices to the detriment of my family. I cannot continue to do this. In 2009 I was elected state chair with the promise that we were going to do more to win elections. We were going to build better lists, have a better portal for accessing those lists, more staff to support our candidates and build up the Party infrastructure. In fact, we accomplished a lot of those things. We made significant strides toward our goal of electing more Republicans. These strides were made possible by providing support for candidates and building up the Party infrastructure. For the first time in modern history, Republicans took control of both the Minnesota House and Senate – with more than 100,000 vote margins statewide. The Party played a major role in helping these election victories through candidate recruitment, candidate training, voter ID, candidate support through our field operation, Project Phoenix, and finally voter persuasion and voter turn-out through our direct mail and get-out-the-vote operations. Our Congressional incumbents were re-elected with comfortable margins: Rep. Erik Paulsen, Rep. John Kline and Rep. Michele Bachmann all won handily on November 2. In a historic victory, Rep.-Elect Chip Cravaack defeated 36-year incumbent Jim Oberstar in Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District. The State Party was able to do additional mail in the 1st and 8th Congressional District races, as well as fully funded coordinated campaign expenditures for television ads in the 8th District victory.
We built up the candidate support and party infrastructure. Voter ID was one of our top priorities, and major progress was made through Project Phoenix. We had an amazing GOTV effort and were able to make 1.5 million calls to remind people to go vote for their Republican endorsed candidates. We mailed out 550,000 absentee ballot applications, as well as 750,000 sample ballots. We also invested in our own VOIP (voice over IP) system, enabling our BPOUs and Congressional Districts to make these calls at no cost to them. We put a field director in every congressional district to work with local party officials in the implementation of Party programs as well as working with our endorsed candidates. In addition, we had a special field operation devoted to the statewide candidates. The State Party paid for thousands of signs for our statewide team and coordinated the distribution of the signs. Our field operation also coordinated candidate travel and organized dozens of rallies and media events throughout the state. We encouraged BPOUs to open local offices and worked with them to enable this, resulting in a record number of GOP offices across the state. For the first time the Party put serious resources into supporting our endorsed judicial candidates. Judicial candidates were in included in media events and rallies with the rest of the ticket. In addition, they were also included in GOTV activities. The State Party did over 275 independent expenditure mailings in the legislative races. The Party also did two flights of television advertising for Tom Emmer’s campaign for governor and one flight of radio for the remaining constitutional officers’ campaigns. The State Party conducted a billboard campaign for Tom Emmer as well as anti-Dayton billboards. We established our own database (Project Phoenix) with more than double the number of users than Voter Vault. Due to extensive trainings and the easy-to-use format, we also had higher usage from our users. This new system was instrumental in gaining the majorities and will continue to be an important Party asset for the future. We held numerous comprehensive candidate schools that included expert speakers on a variety of subjects as well as more specific training sessions on dealing with press, using social media and using our new Phoenix system effectively in their campaigns. 2010 was a record year for major donor fundraising, eclipsing the record set in 1998. The Elephant Club has been built up over the past 18-months to more than 300 members. We have monthly meetings with impressive speakers and a large crowd with yearly renewals. In fact, I raised more from major donors in a 24 month period than any previous state chair (since I became state chair we have raised $4.9 million from major donors). We had an outstanding ballot security program, recruiting the highest number of election judges and poll challengers that we have ever had.
Learning from lessons of the past, the State Convention was open and fair. Convention Committees were open and accessible. The Platform process allowed for unlimited debate and no time limits were placed on the convention. The convention ended in a positive and unifying manner. The process for nominating candidates and national delegates was reformed so that the delegates decide who to nominate instead of a nominating committee. The Platform was re-written and re-formatted to be more understandable and reader-friendly. I ran for re-election as State Chair hoping I could remain an unpaid Chairman. I started my own public affairs company and hoped to be able to continue in an unpaid capacity. However, after concerns were raised, I decided to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest and mothballed my company. Because of that I had to ask the Party for a salary. Frankly, anything less than someone willing to devote full time to being State Chair would be difficult at best in this fund raising environment. I have always put politics first in my life and rationalized it by thinking I was doing this for the greater good. My four-year old daughter came to me a couple of weeks ago and said she feels like she doesn’t have a father anymore because I am gone so much. We all make sacrifices for the Party – however, I feel I have made more than my fair share. Now it is time for others to step up and to serve. As you know, the “Monday morning quarterbacks” always have the right answers in hindsight. However, as State Chair I did what I thought was in the best interest of the Party and to win elections. Looking back I have only three real regrets. #1 – We probably geared up too quickly for the 2010 elections. I was anticipating the business community being more excited about the Governor’s race; unfortunately they were not as excited about it as we had hoped. I thought we could make up for the loss of revenue from the loss of the political contribution refund program with more major donor contributions, especially in light of the importance of the Governor’s race. While we did raise a record amount of major donor money in 2010 ($3.3 million), we were still short of the goal for major donors ($4 million). Once the money did begin to come later in the summer, rather than pay old bills I decided to push money towards the elections. I could have easily spent less on independent expenditures for the legislative elections or the governor’s race. For example, we spent $80K on television ads for Chip Cravaack – we could have just not have done that and nobody would have known. In short, we could have done less and had fewer bills (or perhaps no bills at all); however, I thought it was critical to win elections. #2 – I wish we had not been involved in the recount for Governor. I was approached the morning after the election by the campaign manager and campaign chairman for the Emmer campaign and asked if the Party would take on the recount because they could
not. With the advantage of hindsight I should have said no and endured the political heat. However, I thought at the time it was the right thing to do. #3 – I would have adjusted even more to the post-PCR environment. Losing the refund program has had a devastating effect on our small dollar fundraising programs as compared to the past. We went from an average donation of $60 to one of $28 – however; the costs remain the same to take in less money. Party finance staff estimate the loss of the refund program cost us $2 million in lost revenue in 2010 and $1 million in 2011. I thought we could make it up by raising more from major donors. In fact, as mentioned earlier, I have raised more from major donors in the last two years than any other state chair over a two year period – it just wasn’t enough to make up for the loss of the PCR program. We have taken steps in the short term by reducing staff to cut costs (we still have about the same size staff as the DFL and bigger than most Republican state parties). For the long term the budget being proposed for 2012 is leaner and concentrates more on the voter contact programs. As for the debt, compared to the amount of money we raise, what we owe is not a lot and should be able to be paid off without hurting our election efforts. I am confident whoever is the next Chairman will be able to raise the funds needed to win elections and support our candidates. Here is how the process will work. According to the bylaws, whoever is elected Deputy Chair will have 30 days to call a state central committee meeting to fill the vacancy for State Chair. That is why I am resigning now, so that the next State Chair will basically be starting at the beginning of the year and have the maximum amount of time to prepare for the coming elections. I will miss serving you. As I wrote at the beginning of this letter being your State Chair has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It is, however, time for me to move on for the sake of my family. The future of this Party is bright. We are poised to have a very successful 2012 election cycle – and if everyone pitches in I know it will be. Thank you for all that you do to make this Party, and more importantly this country, better and more prosperous. Best Always, Tony Sutton
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