See more of the story

Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.


More than 336 million people live in America: Only 100 are U.S. senators. The Minnesota Republican Party thinks Royce White, who was endorsed this month at the GOP's state convention, should be one of them. That's unfortunate for the party and for Minnesota.

Mostly known for his high school, college and professional basketball career, White has never held elected office. He lost the GOP primary for Minnesota's Fifth District congressional seat in 2022, but reportedly found enough extra campaign funds to spend on a strip club in Miami, limousine services in Florida and Georgia, expensive hotels in Tennessee, Georgia and even the Wisconsin Dells, as well as a Best Buy in Texas, local Guitar Center stores and elsewhere, according to a Star Tribune report on White's campaign expenditure records.

The transactions were "very modest," White told the Star Tribune.

Actually, "it's equal to or exceeds George Santos levels of abusing campaign finance rules," Brett Kappel, a national expert on campaign finance law, told reporters, referring to the former representative from New York who was expelled by the U.S. House.

White was introduced to the state convention via video by Steve Bannon, the former White House operative who faces four months in prison for ignoring a subpoena from the House's Jan. 6 Committee. Bannon hasn't been silent in lying about the "stolen" 2020 election, however.

Beyond Bannon, White's aligned himself with another proven liar, the vile conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, whose photo, like Bannon's, is on White's campaign website. White's made numerous media appearances with both men, and according to reporting from New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg, the GOP nominee told Bannon on his podcast that "women have become too mouthy."

Elsewhere, Goldberg reports, "White denounced the 'Jewish lobby' and the 'Jewish elite' and called Israel 'the linchpin of the new world order." Amid high-profile congressional hearings on campus antisemitism, it's breathtakingly hypocritical for Republicans to endorse someone who makes such characterizations. When asked by the Star Tribune about his history of antisemitic language and attacks on critics, White, who is Black, said "The Black community is a very vulgar community culturally, and just in general."

The endorsee's personal background is also deeply troubling. According to a report in the Star Tribune, in 2020 White pleaded guilty to violating an order for protection from the mother of two of his children. Additionally, "Court records show White has faced multiple housing evictions in the past two years, including a $15,000 default judgment after he failed to respond to a housing claim for months of unpaid rent. White's landlord claimed he stopped paying rent in April 2020, and that despite the landlord receiving more than $41,000 from a federally funded rental assistance program on White's behalf, White did not make subsequent payments on an outstanding debt of nearly $9,000."

Minnesota Republicans had a more palatable Senate candidate in former Naval officer Joe Fraser, who offered more gravitas and, one would think, mainstream appeal in a bid to defeat relatively popular incumbent Amy Klobuchar, the Democrat running for a fourth term. But White, without any of the credibility or credentials of Fraser (let alone Klobuchar) won the nomination with 67% of the vote on the first ballot.

After initially declining an intraparty challenge, Fraser reconsidered and will now enter the August primary. In a statement, Fraser cited low attendance at the convention and White's "history of questionable conduct and serious charges leveled against him" as factors, adding that "it was no longer a question about the party endorsement, but about the choice we, as a party, are offering Minnesotans who are desperately seeking new leadership."

In a year when Republicans hope to not only regain control of the Minnesota House but also make presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump the first GOP candidate to win the state since Richard Nixon in 1972, putting White near the top of the ticket would likely have political implications. But this issue is bigger than politics. It's about governance, and the idea and ideal that officeholders — especially the select 100 in the Senate — should pull society together, not strive to further divide it.

It's also about the fundamental nature of political parties. Does the state GOP have, let alone enforce, any standards? Or does the party just exist to send out endless appeals for money that is subsequently spent on mostly negative campaign ads that deepen the alienation many feel toward their elected officials, the state and the country?

If the state's Republican Party is up to more than raising campaign cash and is willing to raise candidate standards, now is the time to act. But according to a report by KSTP's Tom Hauser, the state GOP is not moving to rescind White's nomination. If not, it will now be up to Minnesota's Republicans to make their voices heard (and party contributions silent) in a quest to turn the party, the U.S. Senate and ultimately the country in a more constructive direction.