A surprising move looks to change the face the Republican Party in Minnesota: Jennifer Carnahan is now Minnesota’s GOP chair.
Carnahan, a Maple Grove native, worked in marketing and strategy for companies like Ecolab, General Mills, and McDonald’s, and launched her own chain of boutique clothing stores, before turning her focus to politics. Her first campaign, a run for Minneapolis’ District 59 Senate seat in 2016, ended in defeat to Democrat Bobby Joe Champion.
But, as she told delegates before the recent election for state chair,
“I represent a new face, a new voice (and) a new spirit that I think our party needs to advance to the next level.”
And clearly there were many that agreed. She defeated the Minnesota Republican Party’s deputy chair Chris Fields, as well as the Republican National Committeeman Rick Rice, and David Hann, formerly the state Senate Minority Leader, to become state GOP chair on April 29, 2017 (just over a year after she attended her first Republican Party caucus).
As a political newcomer, Carnahan’s sentiments seem to seek a balance between traditional GOP values and a desire to be “socially inclusive.” This includes support for gay marriage, which breaks with some traditional conservatives in the state.
“Some of my best friends are gay and they deserve the right to be happy just like everyone else,” she told MinnPost in November of 2016.
But perhaps that’s the point, as the red vs. blue party divide has turned politics, especially in recent years, into something of a tug of war seemingly without the best interests of constituents at heart.
Carnahan, with limited political experience, also seems to be riding the wave of outsider GOP politics that gave Donald Trump the White House.
As she said after the election,
“If people see that we’re the party where someone like myself came in like an activist just a year ago… how does that not inspire more people to get involved?”
Carnahan’s two-year term comes in the wake of the 2016 elections, in which Republicans took control of the Minnesota Senate and strengthened their control of the House (and Donald Trump came closer than most to winning the state). This momentum has some wondering if Minnesota may swing red in the upcoming gubernatorial election; a Republican governor would give the party complete control of state government for the first time since 1969.