Stauber adviser touts red surge in reelection bid, possible state Legislature takeover
Schultz said there's surging support for Republicans at the grassroots level, which bodes well for the reelection campaigns of President Donald Trump and Congressman Pete Stauber, as well as a potential takeover of the state Legislature on Nov. 3.
STAPLES — Republicans are primed for a takeover of the state Legislature in 2020 and while the electoral battlegrounds were primarily in the Twin Cities suburbs in 2018, Greater Minnesota could be the tipping point this time around.
So said 8th Congressional District Director Isaac Schultz — a chief adviser to Congressman Pete Stauber, R-Duluth, and a veteran of northern Minnesota politics — who stopped by the Timbers Event Center in Staples Thursday, March 5, for an informative talk dubbed “What it’s like to work in the belly of the beast.”
The talk explored Schultz’s role in state politics and a glimpse at the rapidly evolving electoral landscape. The event, which featured roughly 50 people in a casual dinner setting, was sponsored by Crossroads Conservatives.
In his late 20s, Schultz sports a respectable resume as a political practitioner. Before coming to work for Stauber, he served as a top aid to then-Minnesota Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt and as campaign coordinator with congressional candidate Stewart Mills III, as well as stints as an assistant in the Minnesota Senate and with the congressional bids of Pete Hegseth and Dan Flood in the early 2010s.
A native of Upsala, Schultz presented his bona fides as evidence of a deep understanding when it comes to politics in northern Minnesota — a region, he noted, that’s abandoned decades of DFL leadership in favor of conservative Republican politics in key elections during 2014, 2016 and 2018, with 2020 looming as another potential watershed year.
DFLers often failed to woo voters over social issues like gay marriage, Schultz said, while the Democratic Party at large continues to bicker and fracture over issues like gun control, Enbridge Line 3 and copper-nickel mining.
In turn, Greater Minnesota DFLers — especially for the likes of state Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, who was recently ousted from being Senate minority leader — are finding themselves increasingly embattled and isolated, Schultz said, even by their own party.
Schultz said Republicans were courting Bakk to switch parties, but noted the state senator would likely see what influence he’s able to wield during the current bonding session in St. Paul. He may opt to remain a DFLer, Schultz said, or Bakk could make the switch to run as a Republican or an independent.
These developments present a great opportunity for the GOP, he observed, especially with a surge of grassroots support for President Donald Trump in the run-up to his upset victory in 2016 — much of it concentrated in areas like Staples and throughout Greater Minnesota. Schultz spoke glowingly of Trump’s ability to galvanize the Republican base and forge deep inroads into traditionally liberal strongholds like the state of Minnesota.
“It's changing. We're changing the game, especially in northern Minnesota. There's places that were once consistently and solidly blue that have changed. There's a president that has so much support in our community, that has those kinds of numbers,” said Schultz, who admitted he didn’t support Trump at first, before coming around during the general election. “That's so inspiring.”
Drawing on experiences in districtwide, statewide and local elections, Schultz said the current political environment bodes well for Stauber’s first reelection bid — which, if successful, would be the first Republican second term in 76 years — while Democratic Congressman Collin Peterson in the neighboring 7th Congressional District looks more vulnerable than ever.
In the most right-leaning district in the state, the fact Peterson has been able to cling to power is a temporary aberration, said Schultz, who added Republicans need to attack Peterson on sharing a party with divisive Democrats.
On the local level, Schultz took aim at Greater Minnesota DFLers — particularly District 5A’s John Persell, along with Iron Range representatives — as his main targets to flip seats and hopefully orchestrate a Republican takeover of the state Legislature in 2020 to counterbalance Gov. Tim Walz’s power in the governor chair.
“If we turn that around, Republicans would maintain our majority in the Minnesota Senate in this coming election and we would win the Minnesota House. Then, we could take out Gov. Walz in the next term,” Schultz said. “So those are the things that get me excited, because I literally see these votes changing (to Republican).”
Still, while the opportunities are there, the Republican Party needs supporters to step up at the local level by fundraising, volunteering and voting, Schultz said, or otherwise these opportunities will sputter and die.
“More than anything, make sure you stay in the fight. Make sure that you work hard because all of your efforts matter so much,” Schultz said. “They don't forget you. When my boss, Congressman Pete Stauber, pushes the button or drops in his voting card and he votes, he sees your faces. That's real.”
GABRIEL LAGARDE may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-855-5859. Follow at twitter.com/glbrddispatch .