A near-sweep for Paul's backersby Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio,
Conrad Wilson, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. CLOUD, Minn. — A solid majority of the delegation Minnesota Republicans will send to this Summer's Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., will be going in support of Texas Congressman Ron Paul for President.
Going into the state convention, Paul had 20 of the 24 national delegates selected at District Conventions. The Paul side captured 12 of 13 remaining delegates elected at the state convention.
As Republicans were close to wrapping up their two-day convention, Jeff Johnnson, speaking as a national committeeman, addressed the tension in the convention hall between Paul supporters and other Republicans.
"The folks who really just want to purge the party of the Ron Paul people, the folks that I've heard say why can't it just be like it was six or eight years ago, my advice to you is get over it," Johnnson said.
He went on to say critics of the rise of the Paul contingent should instead embrace it.
"If you're not moving forwards, you're moving backwards; if we don't grow we die as a party."
The strong showing for Paul shows there is still dissatisfaction within the state's GOP about making Mitt Romney their nominee.
Minnesota Republican Party Chairman Pat Shortridge said the party still believes in the same principals.
"I think we are largely unified behind some very consistent, common sense message of cutting spending, reducing regulations that are cutting off jobs, defending people's freedoms, defending our values from a growing government in Washington, D.C.," Shortridge said.
Kevin Erickson, a pastor from Virginia, Minn., is one of the Paul delegates.
"In the national race, what we've seen is about a third of the party supports Mitt Romney and about two-thirds of the party is looking for somebody, anybody else," Erickson said. "And so I think that's what reflected in this as far as a rebellion against the authority.
"We're very, very happy. I think it shows the strength of the Ron Paul organization, the discipline of the people who are involved. And hopefully the party will be making some really strong conciliatory gestures to the Ron Paul leadership here. Because they have an awful lot of influence that could be used to help a lot of the candidates get through this fall's elections."
Prior to convention business on Saturday morning, Paul headlined a breakfast fundraiser for the debt-laden Minnesota GOP.
Mark Zdechlik covers politics for MPR News.