State Sen. Branden Petersen’s support of same-sex marriage continues to reverberate in his district.
Last week, his Senate district’s Republican executive committee announced it voted to admonish the first-term senator, who voted last month to legalize same-sex marriage.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton signed the bill legalizing same-sex marriage last month and Minnesota gay couples can be legally wed in August.
The “no confidence” motion, said several members of the executive committee, came not because Petersen supported legalization, but because of his actions around that decision.
“It wasn’t really his view on the marriage issue, it was just multiple violations of our trust,” said Don Huizenga, SD35 Republicans deputy chair.
He and others said that Petersen’s lack of early disclosure about his marriage views raised local Republicans’ ire as did his May fundraising letter in support of the pro-legalization MN United PAC. The MN United PAC has pledged to support lawmakers from both sides of the aisle who backed same-sex marriage.
Petersen, R-Andover, said he does not believe that those ancillary actions fired up the local Republicans.
“What’s at the root of the issue is the issue itself, which is gay marriage,” Petersen said.
He said he met with local Republicans after he made his decision on the marriage bill, which he co-sponsored. As to the complaint about the PAC letter, Petersen said it is no different from the support a lawmaker would give to the National Rifle Association or Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, both of which support lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Deputy chair Steve Farrell said he sees Petersen now as a flip-flopper and would feel the same no matter the issue.
“It isn’t about the marriage issue. It is about a politician changing what they do from the campaign trail to when they get office,” Farrell said. “We need to hold our politicians accountable.”
Farrell said he fully expects that Petersen will have a problem winning Republican endorsement when he runs for re-election in 2016.
“We are going to make sure that we are going to find a candidate that will keep his or her word for the next election,” Farrell said.
Nancy Bendtsen, chair of the Republican organization, said she is hoping the no confidence vote clears the air and everyone can move forward.
“His voting record is probably one of the best for Republicans,” Bendtsen said. “This is one thing.”
Petersen, who said he “absolutely” plans to run for re-election in 2016, said the vote was “disappointing but it doesn’t change my approach over the next three years.”
He said he does plan to attend the next meeting of his Senate district’s Republicans and has requested to be on the agenda.
Rachel E. Stassen-Berger