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Santorum shows strength in Crow Wing County

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Brainerd Dispatch
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Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

BAXTER — Brainerd area Republicans heard presidential campaign pitches from each of the four candidates at Tuesday’s caucuses, and Crow Wing Township proved to be a fairly accurate indicator of Rick Santorum’s strength in Minnesota.

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The former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania was the overwhelming choice of Crow Wing Township after more than a dozen Brainerd area Republican precincts broke into individual groups at Forestview Middle School.

Before the break-out meetings were convened four speakers urged support for their favorite candidates. Sue Hilgart of Brainerd championed Santorum’s candidacy. She read a statement which made reference to Santorum being labeled “a Tea Party guy before there was a Tea Party.” She cited his pro-life and pro-family stances.

“Rick Santorum has the courage to fight for America,” she said.

She must have convinced the GOP faithful in Crow Wing Township. Their presidential tally in the non-binding vote was Santorum, 12; former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, 4; Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, 3; and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, 2.

The totals for the presidential preference tally in Crow Wing County were not available at 10 p.m. Tuesday.

When Sue Kern sat down at the Crow Wing Township table she was the one who opened the manila envelope. As a result she became the precinct convener and then later was elected permanent chair.

“I won because I opened the envelope,” she said.

The township passed resolutions directing the GOP to follow the U.S. Constitution in governing; and to support the concept of marriage as a union of one man and one woman. In addition the precinct passed a motion directing its seven delegates to carry a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution with them to the Crow Wing County convention on Feb. 25 at Central Lakes College.

In discussion Erik Jaehnert urged his fellow Republicans not to be afraid to support candidates like Paul and Santorum.

“I hope we all get back to fiscal conservatism,” he said. “We need to get rid of Barack.”

He said he had been discouraged when Republicans nominated Sen. John McCain, four years ago.

“So much is wrong with the Republican Party today,” he said.

At the outset of the meeting all of the presidential candidates had supporters speak on their behalf.

Peggy Erickson said Gingrich would repeal Obama’s health care law and reduce the size of government.

Rod Thoe of Fort Ripley said he believed Romney would win the nomination but said he’d support Paul. He said Paul’s supporters must not be disrespected or it could cause a fracture in the party. In his view, Santorum couldn’t win in Pennsylvania and Gingrich was too surly.

Paul, he said, represented the constitutional/libertarian side of the Republican Party. He said the nation is driving off a cliff and Paul is the one guy who is willing to put on the brakes.

Speaking for Romney, Paul Hirst of Brainerd said the former governor is the one candidate with the depth and breadth of experience who has detailed plans for when he takes office. Romney, he said, has a great family and is a great husband and father who wouldn’t do anything to embarrass the country.

Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, came to the caucus from a Santorum event in the Twin Cities but said he will back whoever wins the GOP nomination.

“Minnesota has begun to head in the right direction,” he said, changing the focus from the national to the state political scene. He cited environmental reforms and a streamlined permitting process designed to help businesses.

Gazelka was one of several area lawmakers who announced their support for Santorum Tuesday. Listed on a Minnesota endorsement list were Gazelka, Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria; Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji; and Rep. Mike LeMieur, R-Little Falls.

MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at 855-5860 or mike.orourke@brainerddispatch.com.

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Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860
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