Two days after being elected leader of the Minnesota Republican Party earlier this month, David Hann got to work.
One of the former state senator’s first goals? Restoring confidence in the state party.
The longtime Eden Prairie resident stepped into the role two months after former chair Jennifer Carnahan resigned. According to media reports, she did so in the fallout of the sex trafficking scandal involving Republican strategist and major donor Anton “Tony” Lazzaro.
Hann, elected by state GOP party delegates during a special election on Oct, 2, will serve the remainder of Carnahan’s two-year term, which runs through 2022. Carnahan had been re-elected in April.
“The organization, of course, has gone through a bit of turmoil, and people are a bit uncertain on where things are and what’s going on,” he said. “We need to do everything we can to rebuild trust.”
With the 2022 mid-term elections a year away, some Republicans have publicly stated their hope that Hann’s low-key approach will provide a calming influence.
Hann, 69, served in the Minnesota Senate from 2003 to 2016, becoming minority leader in 2012. He lost his bid for re-election to the District 48 seat representing Eden Prairie and Minnetonka to Democrat Steve Cwodzinski.
Before that, he served on the Eden Prairie School Board.
“Others might be in a better position to decide that or not (on his traits for his new role),” Hann said. “But I’ve been around the political world for a while. I’m a known quantity. I have a reputation, which is I believe is generally good.”
Hann, who considers himself a conservative Republican, said he always tried to work in a professional way.
“Given the circumstances and what the party has gone through, I think people are wanting to make sure we’re in good hands, and we’re going to do things to become more effective,” he said. “That’s the plan.”
He said the party’s finances are not in dire circumstances, as one media outlet reported this week.
“We don’t have debt,” he said. “But, like a lot of organizations, we are always trying to raise money, and we need to do that.”
He said the organization needs to be strengthened, so the party is an “effective participant” in that next election cycle.
Second try at running party
Hann ran for party chair four years ago, but Carnahan was elected instead.
He then went to work as executive director of the Minnesota Association of Townships, a non-partisan organization. Last December, he left the association as he eyed the possibility of getting involved in politics again.
“I wasn’t sure exactly what, but then when this came up, it was not something I was thinking about or anticipated,” he said. “After (Carnahan) resigned, I started to get calls from people involved in the party, legislators and donors, and they were all calling to encourage me to consider running.”
After a week of discussions, Hann decided to run.
“I thought my background was maybe what the party needed at this point,” he said.
Two different political parties
Hann said the Republican party is needed in the ongoing public discourse and debate among citizens.
“We have a philosophy of governance that’s very, very different than the Democrats,” he said. “A lot of people don’t believe that. They think there are two political parties and we really are the same, and we just like to fight among ourselves, which isn’t true.”
He said it’s part of his job as GOP chair to clarify those ideas so voters can make a “reasonable decision” on how they want to be governed.
“It’s a big challenge, but it’s also a great opportunity,” Hann said of his new role.