In 2011, in only her second term in a legislative body that prizes seniority, Republican state Rep. Jenifer Loon of Eden Prairie was elected an assistant majority leader. In 2013, she was chosen as deputy minority leader.

Those are markers of the respect she has won from her fellow Republicans, not to mention other Capitol players, including many DFLers. Loon is a conscientious, thoughtful legislator who’s entrusted to speak for her party.

It’s that esteem, and not the unwillingness of the District 48B Republican Party to endorse her for a fourth term, that should matter with voters in the Republican primary next Tuesday. Loon deserves their support over challenger Sheila Kihne.

Kihne, 40, is a stay-at-home mother, author of a book about dating, and Republican activist. She declined to meet with a Star Tribune Editorial Board screening panel before the primary. We intended to ask whether her critique of Loon’s performance goes beyond Loon’s May 2013 vote to legalize same-sex marriage. We see little on Kihne’s website to suggest that it does.

Disagreement on that issue ought not have been sufficient to deny party endorsement to a popular sitting legislator, especially given District 48B’s lopsided vote in 2012 against the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. And especially since there is so much more to Loon’s service than that single vote.

Loon, 50, spent a dozen years in Washington as a congressional aide before moving to Minnesota. She’s comfortable in the legislative arena, and it shows. Small-business tax policy is her long suit, though she’s also done good work on affordable access to quality early education, teacher tenure reform and mandate relief for school districts.

She understands that lawmaking requires both persistence and bipartisan collaboration. Along with DFL Sen. Roger Reinert of Duluth, she wants to be back next year to try again to ease Minnesota’s restrictions on Sunday liquor sales. Eden Prairie primary voters ought not deny her that chance.