Three men are vying for the nomination: Kurt Bills, a state representative from Rosemount; Pete Hegseth, an Iraq War veteran from Stillwater; and Dan Severson, a former state representative from Sauk Rapids. And according to several party insiders, the race is a dead heat.
To win the nomination, a candidate must get 60 percent of the [state GOP convention] delegates’ votes, and because two of the candidates entered the campaign late, no one is walking into the convention with the nomination guaranteed. If no one wins the nod at the convention, the candidates will face off in an August primary. But Jeff Johnson, national committeeman for Minnesota, tells NRO he thinks Bills, who’s been endorsed by Texas congressman Ron Paul, has a slight edge.
“The conventional wisdom is that Kurt has an edge because of the Ron Paul endorsement and the fact that [Paul’s supporters] are organized and [Bills is] an attractive candidate,” Johnson says.
Bills’s support for the gold standard and his skepticism toward aid for Israel have earned him the backing of the state’s Ron Paul movement. Gregg Peppin, a Republican consultant who’s assisting Bills, estimates that the delegates affiliated with the Paul movement are 40 to 50 percent of the total. (Hegseth’s campaign puts the percentage in the mid to high 30s.)
Peppin is quick to add, however, that Bills appeals to all types of voters. A high-school economics teacher who entered the race on March 8, Bills speaks fluently on many issues. As a member of the teachers’ union, he appeals to that demographic, Peppin argues. And Bills has successfully run for office before, knocking out a Democratic state representative in 2010.
Peppin notes that Bills can get even young voters excited. At his school, the student body has repeatedly chosen Bills to be its commencement speaker. Bills’s ability to connect with younger voters, Peppin says, “certainly helps when trying to put together a coalition to compete with [incumbent Amy] Klobuchar.”