Following the 2014 elections, Congressman John Kline remains the major and senior elected figure in the Minnesota Republican party. The powerful chairman of the House education committee, he will be a central figure in the reform measures ahead to improve the nation’s faltering public school systems.
Kline’s reelection was not in any doubt, but TV comedian Bill Maher thought he could intervene in the election and defeat him. It was a pathetic and uninformed effort (Maher didn’t even know who Kline’s Democratic opponent was). Kline reacted accordingly, raising campaign funds from Maher’s hapless folly and publicizing the comedian’s intrusion into the race. Kline won in a 17-point landslide, and I don’t doubt that Maher’s efforts actually increased his margin of victory.
Along with former U.S. Senator Rudy Boschwitz, Kline is one of the most respected and well-liked political figures in the state. Each of them, incidentally, had significant lives of achievement before seeking elective office. Boschwitz was born to a German Jewish family that fled the Nazis when he was just three years old. In Kline’s case, it was a very distinguished career as a combat Marine helicopter pilot. He later became the man who carried the nuclear codes for two U.S. presidents (Reagan and Carter), and commanded all U.S. air forces in Operation Restore Hope in Somalia.
The 2014 elections in Minnesota had mixed results for Republicans. They did succeed in winning back control of the state house of representatives (no state senators were up for election this year), and Congressman Erik Paulsen and former state legislator Tom Emmer also won U.S. House seats by landslides in their districts. Victories in statewide offices eluded the GOP, however.
GOP leaders such as Mr. Kline and Mr. Boschwitz will now need to inspire a younger Republican generation or two to bring back the state party’s much better days of only a few years ago.
Barry Casselman is a national political commentator who lives in Minneapolis, and has been a frequent contributor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD. His Prairie Editor blog is at www.barrycasselman.com.