Contested GOP caucus drives big Tuesday turnout in Shakopee

A contested GOP caucus drove more than 400 residents to the Shakopee High School Tuesday night to hear from House of Representative candidates Erik Mortensen and Bob Loonan. 

Loonan served in the House of Representatives from 2015 to 2018. He sought the Scott County GOP’s endorsement in 2018 but lost to Mortensen, who he then challenged in a primary. Mortensen won the primary but lost 52-to-48-percent in the general election against Tabke. 

2020 is shaping up to look a lot like 2018, with both Loonan and Mortensen again vying for the endorsement from SCGOP. 

With one precinct to a classroom, and many classrooms packed to the brim with standing room only, Loonan and Mortensen hopped from room to room giving their stump speeches.

“If I get in, I will fight with liberals, not Republicans,” Loonan told a room of caucus goers, taking a jab at Mortensen’s political approach in the 2018 primary. 

Mortensen got a few jabs in himself speaking to a full room of people. 

“A lot of Republicans at the Capitol lack the backbone to do anything,” he said. “We have a ton of energy in this campaign.”

Mortensen also touted the fact that organizations around the state poured money and resources into his campaign. In 2018, the Shakopee Valley News reported that outside groups spent $120,000 on Mortensen’s campaign in the form of political action committees. 

“We knocked on over 100,000 doors, and there’s only like 15,000 doors in the district,” Mortensen said. 

The delegates elected by individual precincts at the caucus will attend the Scott County GOP convention in March to decide which candidate to endorse, though there’s always a possibility of another primary this August.

SCGOP Chair Joe Ditto said he was thrilled with turnout. In 2018, about 100 people turned out to caucus, so the party essentially quadrupled its turnout. 

At Shakopee West Middle School, the House 55A DFL turned out about 100 caucus goers. Tabke is running for re-election uncontested, and Shakopee Democrat Sahra Odowa, a member of the Scott County Mental Health Local Advisory Council, is running against GOP incumbent Eric Pratt, of Prior Lake, for his Minnesota Senate seat. 

Tabke spoke to the caucus precincts as a whole, saying he wants to represent the people and not corporate interests. He plans to open an office in Shakopee this spring, similar to his campaign headquarters downtown in 2018. 

He also spoke to the attendance difference between the GOP and DFL caucuses.

“There are 400 to 500 people at the high school right now,” he said. “They are fired up and they are angry as hell. It is going to be upon every single person in this room to talk to neighbors.”

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