Former Minnesota Republican Party head Chris Georgacas calls 79-year-old Marsie Leier of Roseville "the godmother of several generations of Republican activists." She led the conservative takeover of the state party apparatus in 1980 when she was running Ronald Reagan's Minnesota effort (she ran all three of Reagan's campaigns in the state, beginning in 1976).
Leier has been throwing her considerable clout behind Republican candidates for the better part of 50 years. Her admirers in the party all point to the election of U.S. Congressman Joe Kline as a sort of parable of her powers. The relatively unknown Kline, an ex-Marine who had never held elective office, beat tough odds and won his party's endorsement in 1998 to run—and win—against incumbent Democrat Bill Luther, who had both name recognition and deep pockets. In every telling of Kline's triumph, Leier emerges as the kingmaker. She had her candidate making state delegate house calls instead of phone calls. She worked the delegates a little more on her own. In public and behind closed doors, she invented inevitability for her favored candidates, whether Kline, Coleman, or Pawlenty.
"She has claimed to be retiring from politics for the last 25 years," Georgacas says, "yet she always manages to get involved and help somebody."
The 10 most powerful Minnesota Republicans:
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