Minn. GOP elects former Edina Rep. Downey as chairman

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Minnesota Republicans elected former state representative Keith Downey as party chairman Saturday.

The Associated Press reports Downey won on the first ballot over owner of the online Independent Business News Network Don Allen, Carver County activist Bonn Clayton and Seagate Technology engineer Bill Paulsen.

From 2008 to 2012, Downey represented Edina in the state House, but lost a state Senate race against a Democratic challenger in 2012.

The newly-elected chairman is inheriting an organization deep in debt and facing an uncertain future, MPR reported in a story about how independent groups have begun to do some of the work traditionally done by the party.

The party remains about $1.6 million in debt, according to the Associated Press.

The Capitol Hill publication Roll Call recently probed the party’s woes, which include historic losses last November: a 35-point blowout in a U.S. Senate race, the loss of a competitive U.S. House seat and control of both legislative chambers.

Voters also shot down two GOP-backed constitutional amendments.

The Star Tribune points out the upside: The party stabilized its finances over last year and is working to regain donors’ trust before the midterm election, which often benefits the party out of power.

In January, several hundred party activists gathered and a to-do list emerged: Reach out to minorities, use social media more effectively, appeal to independent voters, improve campaign techniques, and bind together party factions.

On his campaign website, Downey lists his goals for the party, including a new strategy.

"To build excitement about our party, we need to first restore our credibility," he says. "...we will refocus and redesign what the state party does."

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