MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Republican Party Chairman Tony Sutton abruptly resigned Friday, saying he needed to spend more time with his family. His resignation came just over a year after the GOP won stunning victories in the Minnesota Legislature and unseated a veteran Democratic congressman but failed to hang on to the governorship.
Sutton tweeted his resignation, saying it took effect at 5 p.m.
"I have enjoyed being State Chair, but feel it is best for my family to move on," Sutton said in his Twitter post.
In a letter to Republican activists, Sutton said he feels "a great sense of accomplishment" with the party's election victories in 2010. Republicans captured both the Minnesota House and Senate for the first time since 1971, and political newcomer Chip Cravaack upset 36-year Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar in northeastern Minnesota's 8th Congressional District. But the GOP lost the governorship when Democrat Mark Dayton narrowly defeated Republican Tom Emmer in the race to succeed Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who ran for president but later dropped out. Emmer conceded just as a recount was wrapping up last December.
Sutton, 44, said his duties had taken a toll on his family life.
"I have always put politics first in my life and rationalized it by thinking I was doing this for the greater good. My 4-year-old daughter came to me a couple of weeks ago and said she feels like she doesn't have a father anymore because I am gone so much," Sutton said in the letter.
"We all make sacrifices for the Party — however, I feel I have made more than my fair share. Now it is time for others to step up and serve."
Sutton, who was elected state party chair in 2009, told The Associated Press he was not asked to resign. He said he came to the decision over Thanksgiving.
"It really has taken a lot of time away from my family. It's been a real strain. I just feel it's time to move on," Sutton said.
Sutton now says he wishes the party had not been involved in the gubernatorial recount. In his letter, he says he "should have said no and endured the political heat. However, I thought at the time it was the right thing to do."
The state GOP has been struggling with debt. According to a Star Tribune report in late October, the party remains $533,000 in the red. But Sutton said the party's debt is not a huge concern.
"As for the debt, compared to the amount of money we raise, what we owe is not a lot and should be able to be paid off without hurting our election efforts," Sutton said in his letter.
The state GOP Central Committee meets Saturday in Bloomington to elect a new deputy chair to succeed Michael Brodkorb. Brodkorb left the deputy chair post in early October after announcing he would be working on the campaign of state Sen. Mike Parry of Waseca, who is running to be Republican candidate against DFL incumbent Tim Walz in the 1st Congressional District. The new deputy chair will have 30 days to call a central committee meeting to elect a new state chair.
Even though the Minnesota Republican Party is looking for new leadership — state GOP Executive Director Ryan Griffin left in November when his position was eliminated in a cost-cutting move — Sutton is confident about the party's chances heading into the 2012 presidential election year.
"Every organization needs a shot in the arm sometime. This is the shot in the arm that I think will get people focused," Sutton told the AP.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.