Minnesota GOP In Turmoil As The Date Of National Hate Fest Approaches
Coleman & Hong: the faces of the Minnesota GOP
The last time former Republican Senator Rod Grams ran for office was in 2006 when he tried for a comeback against Jim Oberstar in Duluth and the huge northeast Minnesota 8th CD (and had his head handed to him). This week he wasn't complaining about Oberstar or Democrats but at the startlingly low quality of Republican politicians in Minnesota.
Former U.S. Sen. Rod Grams is focused these days on his central Minnesota radio venture, but the Republican also is fed up with his own political party.
"I'm so damn unhappy with the Republicans right now," Grams said in an interview. "I'm so unhappy with the candidates that we have I could puke. I wanted to get out there and mix it up."
Grams said he considered challenging Sen. Norm Coleman for the GOP nomination but was too busy in his private life to make a run this year. But Grams said he will ponder a run for governor in 2010, saying he'll make that decision within a year.
And Grams is correct, Minnesota, a moderate and sensible state seems to have wound up with two of the very worst members of Congress, extremist maniacs John Kline and Michele Bachmann, not to mention Senator Norm Coleman, who is so atrocious that Grams said he's been considering running against him himself!
Wednesday one of the local GOP's leading lights, Republican operative Peter Hong, was arrested and charged with soliciting a prostitute in St. Paul in the middle of the day.
Police spokesman Peter Panos said that the arrest came during the first day of a two-day sting operation during which "johns" and prostitutes responded to ads placed on the Internet and in print. Thirty-five people were arrested Wednesday and Thursday, Panos said today.
He declined to say where the undercover operation was based.
According to city and county records, Hong, 41, of Minneapolis, was arrested at about 3:40 p.m. on Wednesday and arrived at the Ramsey County jail just after 5 p.m. He was one of at least 19 men swept up during the first day of the sting, police records show.
Hong, reached by phone Thursday, said: "I don't have any comment."
Hong won't even confirm if he was trying to hire a female or a male prostitute-- or one of each. He's usually far more vocal and had served as the spokesperson for Tim Pawlenty's campaign in 2002, for the Bush-Cheney campaign in Minnesota in 2004, as special assistant for public affairs in the Bush Regime's Department of Labor and Industry, and, most recently, for the moral crusade of Mike Huckabee. A former lobbyist for American Community Bankers he is now director of communications / public relations for the Minnesota Bankers Association.
Hong's arrest, with the sexual solicitation arrest in a St. Paul Airport men's room of Republican Senator Larry Craig still fresh in everyone's mind, weighs on the growing list of vulnerable Republican members of Congress who have decided to avoid the Hate Fest altogether. Today's CongressDaily is reporting that "9 of 12 targeted Republicans running in the most competitive Senate races this fall are either skipping the Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn., or have not decided whether to attend." It would be 10 of 12 but Norm Coleman can't figure out a way to get out of what is sure to be a nadir for a Republican Party drowning it its own failed ideology, bigotry, arrogance and incompetence.
Among those who will not attend are Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, who is not close to presumptive presidential nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who is a McCain loyalist. Stevens and Collins will use the convention week to focus on their campaigns.
Also sending regrets is former Rep. Bob Schaffer of Colorado, running for the seat being vacated by retiring GOP Sen. Wayne Allard.
Six others-- Sens. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, John Sununu of New Hampshire, Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and Gordon Smith of Oregon and challengers John Kennedy of Louisiana and Rep. Steve Pearce of New Mexico are still on the fence. [Each of these is running behind their Democratic opponents and none are expected to be elected in November.] Their spokesman offered responses ranging from "there are no plans yet" to "no decisions have been made."
By contrast, most Democrats in those races are either planning to attend the party's late August convention in Denver or are leaning toward attending the event that will formally make Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois the party's nominee for president.
The Republican convention will be bookended by speeches from President Bush, whose low approval ratings have caused many candidates to keep him at arm's length, and McCain, who is still trying to mend fences with conservatives. But none of the absentees or potential no-shows is publicly citing Bush or McCain as the reason for their decisions.
Although some are frightened about aggressive police crackdowns on prostitution-- always a highlight of GOP conclaves-- or being seen in the same state as George Bush or John McCain, most just happen to have dental appointments that week.