Unfinished business

by Jim Boyle

It came down to two candidates for the House District 30A portion of the Senate District 30 Republican endorsing convention this past Saturday.

But that’s as far as the 112 delegates in attendance could get it.

Elk River City Council Member Nick Zerwas answered a question during a Q and A as David FitzSimmons and Chris Kumpula looked on.

It was clear after six ballots neither Chris Kumpula nor Nick Zerwas was going to get the 60 percent support (68 votes) needed to walk away with an endorsement.

The delegates agreed to close the convention at Salk Middle School in Elk River with no endorsement. Without one, that left the next steps in the hands of the Senate District 30 Executive Committee.

The group met Wednesday night at Boondox Bar and Grill and on a 5-4 vote agreed to hold another convention that will be limited to another six ballots or four hours tops.

The committee had  two options. The group could call another endorsing convention as it did in the hope that someone would get 60 percent of the vote and an endorsed candidate would emerge. It could have also elected to let the matter be resolved in a primary election.

The Senate District 30 Executive Committee, House District 30A candidates and delegates gathered this past Wednesday at Boondox Bar and Grill in Otsego.

All three candidates — Kumpula, Zerwas and Chad Westberg — along with a half-dozen delegates  were allowed to give their thoughts to the executive committee members before they  voted to have another convention.

“It’s good,” Kumpula said when asked for a reaction to the vote. “I believe in the convention process more than most people, so I am happy with the decision.”

The other candidates were also asked.

“I’m excited to keep working with delegates and committed to get my supporters there and work to earn that 60 percent needed and go on to bring my positive message out to the district,” Zerwas said.

Westberg said: “I fully accept it. My concern was a technical one, a math concern

Chad Westberg’s campaign has been given new life.

(that another convention will still fail to produce an endorsed candidate).

“But we all agreed by this endorsement process. I fully support it. I think the delegates are pretty smart  people. I think they will come up with the right decision.”

If the delegates reach another stalemate, the matter would move to a primary.

With the closing of the first convention, the race  is once again open for Westberg — and anyone else for that matter — who decides to seek the endorsement of the newly designed House District 30A seat that includes both Elk River and Big Lake.

Nick Zerwas said he has a proven track record of accomplishment in his six years on the Elk River City Council.

Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer won the Senate District 30 Republican endorsement on a unanimous vote of the delegates from House District 30A and 30B in attendance. She was unopposed.

Three people sought the House District 30A endorsement, including Westberg who was eliminated after two rounds of voting.

Westberg got 12 votes in the first round and was forced out of the balloting in the second round after failing to get at least 10 percent of the vote. He got five votes in the second ballot.

Kumpula had as many as 60 votes (twice), and he had as few as 56 and 58 votes in the last four rounds of voting.

Zerwas had between 48 and 51 votes in the last four rounds of balloting.

Chris Kumpula spoke about the need for a moral compass in the Republican caucus.

It takes 60 percent of the vote to win an endorsement. It would have taken 68 votes to achieve the 60 percent needed to win this past Saturday.

If all 141 delegates showed up for an endorsing convention, it would take 85 votes to endorse a candidate.

Kiffmeyer, Zerwas and Kumpala resumed campaigning on Sunday at the Elk River Chamber of Commerce’s Business and Energy Expo at Elk River High School. Kiffmeyer and Zerwas shared a booth at the expo and Kumpula roamed the school.

This past Saturday’s convention included question-and-answer sessions for the top two candidates.

Candidates Chris Kumpula, Nick Zerwas and Chad Westberg will have a second chance at endorsement. The date is yet to be determined.

Among other things, the top two vote-getters had a chance to say why delegates should “hire them.”

Zerwas said delegates should because of his resume and his accomplishments.

“I came into City Hall saying we were going to lower taxes and we lowered taxes,” he said. “I’m proud to say I have a proven track record of accomplishments.”

Kumpula said it’s easy to be vague with answers, but said he’s articulated his positions best — referring to a list of 63 points.

“I have laid out my positions and I believe in standing for every one of them,” he said. “You need someone who will be the moral compass of the caucus, something the caucus is in dire need of. Someone who can articulate fundamentals, liberty, freedom, life. The things we believe as Republicans and many of our Republican colleagues don’t embrace as they should.”

Deadlocked balloting
Saturday, March 24, Salk Middle School, Elk River

Ballot No. 1

Chris Kumpula 54 votes

Nick Zerwas 45 votes

Chad Westberg 12 votes

Spoiled/blank 1 ballot

Ballot No. 2

Chris Kumpula 53 votes

Nick Zerwas 49 votes

Chad Westberg 5 votes

Spoiled/blank 5 ballots

Ballot No. 3

Chris Kumpula 60 votes

Nick Zerwas 48 votes

Spoiled/blank 4 ballots

Ballot No. 4

Chris Kumpula 58 votes

Nick Zerwas 51 votes

Spoiled/blank 3 ballots

Ballot No. 5

Chris Kumpula 60 votes

Nick Zerwas 48 votes

Spoiled/blank 4 ballots

Ballot No. 6

Chris Kumpula 56 votes

Nick Zerwas 50 votes

Spoiled/blank 6 ballots

(Editor’s note: With 112 delegates, a candidate needed 68 votes to win.)