Challengers for House District 30B spar before March 10 convention

by Paul Rignell

Contributing writer

As recently as 2010, former Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom
Emmer of Delano was representing Otsego and other areas of the former
House District 19B in the state Legislature.

When Emmer joined the race for Minnesota’s highest elected office that
year in a challenge against eventual victor Mark Dayton, five other
District 19B Republicans sought local support in the hopes of winning
Emmer’s House seat. Joe McDonald, also of Delano, won his party’s
endorsement for the seat and went on to defeat his Democratic
challenger, Christine Brazelton, by a 2-to-1 ratio.

McDonald received assistance through his summer and fall campaign from
three of the other four Republicans whom he had debated in the spring
and taken the endorsement.

Two years later, redistricting that happens every 10 years has moved
Otsego residents out of McDonald’s House district and into new House
District 30B.

There are two known Republicans — Paul Bolin and David FitzSimmons —
who will be seeking their party’s endorsement for House 30B during a
Wright County convention planned for 9 a.m. Saturday, March 10, at The
Discovery School, 301 Second Ave. N.E. in Buffalo.

Early indications are that, depending which candidate wins the
endorsement, the less-preferred person may not be as eager to
volunteer for the winner later this year in the way most Republicans
joined in support of one in 2010.

Pre-convention talk
Bolin, of Otsego, took to Twitter the evening of Feb. 29 to bring up
legal issues from FitzSimmons’ past, and Bolin followed up with a
press release – issued March 1 – noting he has openly shared
information on his own legal issues at his Website, www.PaulForMN.com.

“I am committed to running an open campaign,” he stated in his press
release, “and I feel that delegates and voters should know who we are
if they are to entrust us with the mantle of leadership.”

Directing a “tweet” at 9:41 p.m. Feb. 29 to Wright County Republicans
finance chair Eric Boone, Bolin referred to past traffic violations of
both Emmer and FitzSimmons.

Emmer has been convicted for driving while intoxicated. Bolin stated
in his press release, and Star News confirmed at
pa.courts.state.mn.us, that FitzSimmons, of Albertville, was convicted
of crossing a center line in 2010 but ordered to complete a DWI clinic
and sentenced to a year’s probation.

Bolin admitted in his press release to two speeding violations and “a
petty traffic violation” during his teenage years.

FitzSimmons explained more of what he experienced in a call with Star
News. He said he was pulled over on a six-lane highway for suspicion
of DWI after crossing a white fog line with his vehicle. For that
charge, and because he “pushed too close to the limit” of .08,
FitzSimmons said, he did attend a one-day, six-hour DWI educational
program. Officially, though, his blood alcohol content at the time of
the stop was found to be below .08, and a prosecutor dropped a DWI
charge against FitzSimmons, he added, before the case reached a judge.
“I did my service for it,” FitzSimmons said. “I definitely learned my
lesson, to never be anywhere close (to the limit). It’s obviously not
worth the risk.”

In a Feb. 29 response to Bolin’s rehash of Emmer’s DWI history, Boone
tweeted, “Emmer’s was 20 years ago! You sound like a Democrat!”

Bolin tweeted back: “So expecting our leaders to follow the law is a
Democrat value. Wow. This is why we need to clean up the GOP.”

Bolin has noted other issues with FitzSimmons, who has taken a leave
of absence from his role as Wright County party chair while seeking
the House endorsement, and Boone, who openly admits to supporting
FitzSimmons for the nod.

Bolin wrote in an email exchange with Star News: “What I … continue to
find somewhat disturbing is the fact that Eric Boone openly is
endorsing a candidate prior to the convention and writing it on
delegates’ Facebook pages. As he is a part of the county GOP board who
is in charge of running a fair endorsement process, I find that to be
a conflict of interest.”

Boone told the Star News that regardless of his feelings in the race,
he believes in fairness for all party supporters who wish to be
considered for the endorsement.

“That happens all the time,” FitzSimmons said in response to Bolin’s
concern over early contacts. “(Being on the board) doesn’t prohibit
you from having your opinion and telling people who you want to
support.”

FitzSimmons says he is committed to working for Republicans in House
30B regardless how the delegates decide to vote March 10. He said that
early in the 2008 presidential race, he did not support U.S. Sen. John
McCain for the Republican nomination, yet once the Arizona senator
became the party’s front-runner, affirmed during the national
convention held in St. Paul, FitzSimmons took the reins as McCain’s
campaign chair in Wright County. “I worked every day, the best that I
could for John McCain,” FitzSimmons said.

Boone said he looks forward to the district party conventions as
festive occasions. “The process is interesting,” he said. He added
that he hopes all party supporters can enter and leave the March 10
event with a common goal of making sure all of Wright County will be
represented by Republican legislators in 2013, without party
in-fighting. “That’s not what anybody wants,” Boone said.

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