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GOP rescinds vote of 'no confidence' in MN Sen. Petersen

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger under Minnesota campaigns, Minnesota legislature, Minnesota state senators, Republicans Updated: January 24, 2014 - 11:27 AM

Local Republican leaders last week rescinded the formal admonishment of Sen. Branden Petersen they had approved last year in the wake of his vote to legalize same-sex marriage.

"Sen. Petersen had a lot of other positive things going for him," said Don Huizenga, a deputy chair of the Senate District 35 Republicans. "We wanted him to go into session with a clear conscience."

Leaders said and the time and Huizenga reiterated this week, that the vote of 'no confidence' his district leaders took last June had less to do with Petersen's vote on marriage itself and more to do with him not be upfront about his plans.

Petersen, R-Andover, said he has heard little about his gay marriage vote in recent months, either from activists or from folks in his district.

"I honestly think that everybody is sort of, it's seven months later and wants to be over it," Petersen said. "I literally think that I’ve gone months without a single email about the issue."

Sen. Branden Petersen, R-Andover, in 2013 accepting congratulations at a victory celebration of gay marriage supporters

Sen. Branden Petersen, R-Andover, in 2013 accepting congratulations at a victory celebration of gay marriage supporters

Petersen was the only Republican member of the Minnesota Senate to vote to legalize same-sex marriage last year. A handful of House Republicans voted to legalize. Minnesota ushered in gay marriage last summer.

Petersen said he has had informal discussions with his district leaders about the marriage vote in the wake of their 'no confidence' motions.

"We have an understanding that his actions do matter to us, - those who work hard to have him represent Senate District 35 and he should expect his representatives to be vocal when ethical lines are potentially crossed," said Nancy Bendtsen, chair of the Senate District 35 Republican group. "At this point, any future repercussions (are) up to the voters."

Huizenga said he received death threats and a lot of unpleasant calls after the district leaders first voted 'no confidence' in Petersen. He said he contacted local police about the threats but they did not track down the perpetrators.

But that trouble has now passed and Petersen can start the February session without the mark of 'no confidence.'

"We are not here to ruin people's political careers but we are there to hold them to account," Huizenga said.

Petersen will next be on the ballot in 2016. Back in 2012, when Minnesotans were asked whether they wanted to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage, a majority of voters in his district said they did. Statewide, however, more Minnesotans said voted against the constitutional amendment so it did not pass.

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