The Potluck

Clay County faction holds its own GOP ‘convention,’ says it will send delegates to state convention

By: - March 30, 2022 2:24 pm

Some 40 Republicans from Clay County held their own convention Saturday in a Glyndon farmhouse — despite the state Minnesota GOP’s cancellation of the official one — and chose 22 delegates they say they’ll send to congressional and statewide conventions. Photo courtesy of Edwin Hahn.

A faction of Clay County Republicans held a convention in a rural farmhouse on Saturday, even though the Minnesota Republican Party canceled the planned convention amid a power struggle within the county party.

The faction not being recognized by the state GOP went ahead and held a convention anyway, approving resolutions and electing delegates they say will show up at upcoming congressional and statewide conventions. 

Edwin Hahn of Moorhead has refused to step down as chair after some members of the Clay County Republican Party voted to remove him on March 8 due to “ethical violations” and “conduct unbecoming.” Then they elected Rod Johnson of Hawley as chair. Johnson told The Forum Hahn was voted out because he harassed delegates, bullied and intimidated people and put personal beliefs over party platform.

Hahn called it a coup d’état orchestrated by Calvin Benson, the son of gubernatorial candidate Michelle Benson. He also works in outreach for U.S. Rep. Michelle Fischbach.

The Minnesota Republican Party served Hahn with a “cease and desist” order on March 17, demanding that he stop representing himself as chair. 

After the Moorhead National Guard Armory backed away from hosting the convention, state GOP officials canceled the whole thing. They said there was no time to hold a convention before their deadline. Instead, the state party will recognize delegates and alternates elected in 2020. 

Hahn said in a Wednesday press release that two days before the convention, he and Johnson had come to an agreement on how to peacefully convene and bring the party together. But when Hahn and three volunteers showed up at the Armory Friday morning to begin setting up, they were denied entry by a staff sergeant because Johnson’s faction didn’t have a lease.

Then the Guard canceled the event, and the state party followed suit.

Hahn’s faction showed up anyway, gathering outside the Armory in freezing temperatures, convening a meeting and affirming the credentials of 30 delegates. Then they took an hour recess and moved to the living room of a farmhouse near Glyndon. 

Hahn said more than 40 Republicans from precincts around the county showed up, approved resolutions and chose 22 delegates and six alternates to represent them at congressional and statewide conventions.

Hahn called it an “encouraging demonstration” that the will of the people will not be cast aside by those who would seek to “enforce their own personal grievances and bizarre claims” upon the party.

He then castigated the state party: “The MNGOP’s attempt to silence the grassroots voice and expressed will of the people by announcing the ‘cancelation’ of the official convention was a sad continuation of recent attempts by a bitter few to overrule the majority of the people,” Hahn said in the release. 

Johnson told The Forum of Fargo that Hahn directed him to sign a “loyalty pledge” saying the party was engaged in spiritual warfare on behalf of Jesus Christ. He also said he expects more “legal proceedings” to arise.

Johnson and state GOP officials have not responded to a request for comment.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.