Things are getting testy between the two Republican candidates for a St. Cloud legislative seat, days after the second candidate joined the race.
Republican Paul Brandmire has charged his opponent, former GOP state Rep. Jim Knoblach, of “sneaky and underhanded” use of his leadership post among local Republicans to delay the endorsing convention in the race.
The convention, at which GOP delegates likely will endorse one of the candidates, is Monday at South Junior High.
Brandmire and Knoblach also are sparring about whether Knoblach’s 12-year legislative career will help or hinder his candidacy.
Knoblach, a St. Cloud businessman who served in the state House from 1995 to 2006, announced Tuesday that he’s running for the House District 14B seat held by freshman DFLer Zachary Dorholt. Brandmire, a St. Cloud truck driver and tea party activist who hasn’t held elected office, declared his candidacy for the seat in January.
Local Republicans originally picked a Feb. 22 date to hold a convention in Senate District 14, which includes House District 14B. Endorsements of legislative candidates often are made at those conventions.
But Brandmire’s beef is that Knoblach — while co-chair of Senate District 14 Republicans — voted, along with a majority of the local party unit’s board, to delay the convention until Monday.
Brandmire says delaying the convention may have helped Knoblach in several ways. They include giving him more time to decide whether to run for House, marshal support for his campaign or allow for resolution of Knoblach’s lawsuit challenging construction of a new legislative office building in St. Paul. A judge dismissed the suit Feb. 6.
“He was in a position to influence the whole sequence of events to suit his needs,” Brandmire said of Knoblach. “It’s politics, I guess.
“I’m not going to go down to that level.”
“No one has treated him unfairly”
Knoblach, for his part, doesn’t deny a later date for the convention was a plus for him.
“From my standpoint, I was thinking about running,” Knoblach said. “Certainly I liked the idea of the convention being later.”
But Knoblach also says there were other reasons to delay the convention that had nothing to do with him.
They included allowing more time to organize the event and giving other potential candidates time to decide if they would run for the seat. Knoblach says he knew of one other potential candidate in 14B who ultimately decided not to run.
Knoblach notes a majority of the local party unit’s board voted with him, shortly before the Feb. 4 precinct caucuses, to delay the convention. And Knoblach says when the Feb. 22 convention date was set last November, it was never decided if it would be an endorsing convention. Some local party units hold a convention to select delegates, then another to endorse candidates.
“I think it was just a misunderstanding on what we were going to do on Feb. 22,” Knoblach said. “I’m disappointed that Paul’s making these accusations.
“No one has treated him unfairly.”
Knoblach stepped down as co-chair of Senate District 14 Republicans shortly before publicly announcing his House candidacy.
“Looking for something new”
Brandmire says he’s not surprised Knoblach joined the 14B race. Knoblach publicly acknowledged in February that he was mulling a run.
But Brandmire says he wishes Knoblach had been more forthright with him about his intentions. Brandmire also says he doubts Knoblach’s lengthy political resume will help him in the race.
“I think he’s been there, done that. I think the people are looking for something new,” Brandmire said.
Knoblach has made his legislative background central to his candidacy. He says his House seniority would help him deliver for District 14B if elected.
Knoblach, who has left open the possibility of running in a primary if he isn’t endorsed Monday, acknowledged he isn’t sure if party delegates consider his experience to be a plus. But Knoblach says he’s confident the broader electorate will see the value of it.
“I think (the experience) is going to be helpful,” Knoblach said. “I guess we’ll find out what people think.”
Keep up with Central Minnesota politics in The Political Quarry, www.sctimes.com/politicalquarry. Follow Times political reporter Mark Sommerhauser on Twitter @msommerhauser.