Faction of Clay County Republicans hold own convention after state-recognized one canceled amid turmoil

On Saturday, March 26, about 40 members of the Clay County Republican Party gathered in a living room at a rural Glyndon home following the Friday cancellation of the party-recognized convention and the removal of chair Edwin Hahn.

Edwin Hahn (back of room, with blue vest) convenes a meeting of roughly 40 Clay County Republicans at a home in rural Glyndon after the state Republican party canceled the group's convention, citing Hahn's behavior. Hahn has been served a cease-and-desist order from the state GOP for continuing to act as the chair of the organiziation despite being ousted on March 8.
Kris Kerzman / The Forum

RURAL GLYNDON, Minn. — On Saturday, March 26, about 40 Clay County Republicans claimed to hold their party’s county-level convention in the living room of a rural Glyndon farmhouse.

The meeting was not sanctioned or recognized by the Republican Party of Minnesota and occurred after the party’s county convention, scheduled to be held earlier in the day, was canceled after both the state and county party claimed there were allegations of threats by the organization’s ousted leader, Edwin Hahn.

Hahn was removed from his chairmanship on March 8 in a meeting of the organization’s executive committee following “irrational and unprofessional public conduct,” said David Hann, chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota.

Since then, Hann said, Hahn has repeatedly and falsely presented himself as a party officer and made unfounded allegations against state and county party leaders.

The state party sent Hahn a cease-and-desist letter last week, saying Hahn must immediately stop representing himself as the county GOP chair or face legal action, an effort that Hahn characterized as an “attempted coup d’etat.”


Hahn refused to speak to The Forum for this story and has refused numerous requests for comment on these recent events.

Moorhead police officers speak with a group assembled by the front door of the Moorhead National Guard Armory. The officers made no arrests and left after a few minutes.
Kris Kerzman / The Forum

Tensions at the Moorhead Armory

After Friday's cancellation of the planned Saturday county convention, Hahn held a Friday night video meeting with supporters instructing them to arrive Saturday at the Moorhead Armory convention site to be “credentialed.” These attendees would then be directed to an alternative convention site.

These attendees began to arrive around 9 a.m. Saturday. One attendee, Nikki Pollack, began addressing the gathering group and checking them in on printed sheets.

One attendee tore down a letter taped to the Armory’s front door from the state GOP informing attendees that the convention was canceled. Pollack told the group everybody has the right to support whomever they want, but quickly turned the focus to Hahn’s ouster in a “secret meeting."

She also blamed state party leaders, including Calvin Benson, district outreach coordinator for Minnesota 7th District Congresswoman Michelle Fischbach, for “shoving (Edwin) aside.”

“Who here supports election integrity?” Pollock said, to which each attendee raised their hand. “Calvin Benson is completely against it. He refused to start an election integrity task force when Edwin wanted to last June.”

Bill Nichol, who said he represents the state Republican party, pushed back on that claim and others, saying he was in attendance to “make sure you guys get a little bit from the other side.”


“Everybody on your executive board lost confidence in Edward,” Nichol told the group. “I realize that’s divisive and there’s some people that really believe in him. He’s a dynamic and great speaker, and quite honestly, I agree with a lot of the stuff that Edwin has said, but he’s been acting out of hand.”

Edwin Hahn (red hat) speaks with assembled supporters near the Moorhead National Guard Armory. Hahn and others claimed to be credentialing convention attendees for a meeting of the Clay County Republican Party held in defiance of the organization's canceled event.
Kris Kerzman / The Forum

Hahn arrived at the Armory around 9:30 a.m. and moved most of the assembled group to a sidewalk away from the venue’s front door. As he did, the rest of the group heard from Rodney Johnson, who is now the state party's recognized county chair.

Johnson spoke about differences he and Hahn have had, mainly over Hahn acting as the face of school board protests during deliberation of COVID-19 prevention measures.

Rodney Johnson speaks with Clay County Republicans gathered outside the Moorhead National Guard Armory. Johnson is now chair of the Clay County Republicans.
Kris Kerzman / The Forum

“It was not a good look to have the face of the Clay County Republicans to be the face and voice of these school protests,” Johnson said, “I agree with much of what the protesters were talking about, but when it’s the chair of the Clay County Republicans … it gave the other side all the opportunity to say it’s just a bunch of political nonsense.”

Johnson also said Hahn directed him to sign a “loyalty pledge” that avowed that the party was engaged in spiritual warfare on behalf of Jesus Christ.

“I do not believe God has called any political party into spiritual warfare,” said Johnson, “especially considering the fact that our party is made up of many people … I have good friends there, they call themselves atheists.”

Vicki Baile, who was nominated to be a delegate at the convention, told Johnson that his actions denied her right to act as a delegate.

“You have a beef with him (Hahn) and you are costing the Republican party a convention because you got your feelings hurt,” Baile said.


Johnson said the county party executive committee is planning to meet early next week to reschedule its convention and name new delegates for future conventions.

At around 10 a.m., Hahn and his assembled group left to hold the meeting they claimed was its legitimate convention. As the cars began to leave the Armory, Johnson said he still feels the party is in a strong position. He doesn’t want to drag Hahn through the mud, he said, but the party can’t continue its work until it gets past this issue.

“Edwin needs to stop what he’s doing,” Johnson said. “He was given the cease-and-desist note from the state, he continues to violate that, and I expect there’s going to be legal proceedings coming up.”

‘I didn’t anticipate all the drama’

The Forum was allowed entry into the meeting held by Hahn’s group only after this reporter was asked to temporarily leave, then introduced in front of the assembled group. A vote was held by the body to allow The Forum to listen in on proceedings.

The rural Glyndon home where Hahn's group met was given the trappings of a political convention, with red, white and blue balloons and tables decked out with coffee, soup and bowls of candy.

Edwin Hahn (far left, blue vest) convenes a meeting of roughly 40 Clay County Republicans at a home in rural Glyndon.
Kris Kerzman / The Forum

The group, led by Hahn, went through an agenda that included naming delegates to future conventions and authorizing committee assignments, election judges and a sergeant-at-arms.

One attendee, Rob Johnson of Barnesville, sees the group as acting in “the will of the people” versus “a small group meeting behind closed doors,” referencing the March 8 meeting where Hahn was ousted.

Johnson said he and his fellow attendees, named by their group as delegates, will plan on attending future conventions in the state and will have to “wait and see how that fleshes out.”

A longtime Republican, Johnson said he’s been active in the county party for about a year.

“I didn’t anticipate all the drama,” he said of his political activity, “but I’ve enjoyed the experience so far. Met a lot of people. It’s been good.”

Despite any drama, his support for Hahn is unwavering.

“It’s very strong, very strong,” he said of his confidence in Hahn’s leadership.

Kris Kerzman is the social media manager for InForum.
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