Three Republican legislators who voted with the DFL to override Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto and pass a $6.6 billion state transportation bill were denied the GOP endorsement for reelection at local caucuses Saturday. All three said they plan to run for reelection
Mark Drake, communications director for the Minnesota GOP, said the party opposed the legislation but did not urge that Republican lawmakers who voted for it be denied endorsements.
"The decision to endorse is up to the local party units, and we certainly respect their decision and stand by their decision,'' Drake said.
In District 41B, Jan Schneider was endorsed by a vote of 92-37 over Rep. Neil Peterson of Bloomington.
The endorsement in District 41A went to Keith Downey, who began his campaign against Rep. Ron Erhardt of Edina more than a year ago.
"I don't think that really tipped any scales," Downey said of Peterson's vote to overturn the veto. "It was just another piece of evidence and maybe the final straw for a lot of people.''
Erhardt said Downey drew votes from "the Christian right with all their social issues, which I don't vote for.'' He said he will either enter the Republican primary against Downey or run as an independent.
"I can't let 123 people decide my fate,'' Erhardt said. "They don't represent the district.''
After the caucus meeting Saturday at Anoka City Hall, Rep. Jim Abeler of Anoka said he won 58 percent of the vote, just shy of the 60 percent needed for the District 48B endorsement. He also had voted to pass the transportation bill over Pawlenty's objections to its plans to raise taxes and fees for more spending on roads, bridges and transit.
Rep. Tom Hackbarth of Cedar, who voted with the governor against the transportation bill, was endorsed by acclamation in adjacent District 48A, Abeler said.
David Olson, president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, came to the Anoka caucus to support Abeler by explaining why the chamber had endorsed the bill. The chamber's support is widely viewed as pivotal for passage of the landmark legislation.
The six Republicans who voted against Pawlenty to make the bill law were scolded and stripped of leadership posts by the House GOP caucus after the override.
Laurie Blake • 612-673-4409