One member of the so-called 'override six' was defeated, while another survived.
Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, left, waited on Tuesday for election judges at Marcy Open Elementary School to finish determining election results. Kahn, who turned away a primary challenge, had stopped by the polling place just before it closed and votes were counted.
State Rep. Neil Peterson learned Tuesday that, even after seven months, many Republicans haven't forgotten his decision to join DFLers to override Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto of a bill including the first state gas tax increase in 20 years.
Peterson, of Bloomington, lost his GOP primary after he was one of six Republicans to join DFLers in handing the governor his most embarrassing defeat of the legislative session, on the transportation bill. Peterson's loss came as another member of the so-called "override six," Rep. Jim Abeler of Anoka, won handily.
"We got blown right out," Peterson, a two-term House member, said of his primary race against Jan Schneider, who had won the GOP endorsement in March. "It was the state [Republican] party that beat me, it wasn't the candidate.
"It's just like the Cosa Nostra; they decide to put a mark on you," he added. Peterson said he suspected his override vote was the principal reason for his defeat, and said "I'm probably the only Republican in history whom the Republican Party has targeted."
Schneider, a small-business consultant, dismissed Peterson's reasoning and said voters had "spoken loud and clear about wanting some fiscal discipline." Peterson, she said, had "a record that stood for whatever seemed to be convenient."
Tuesday's other primaries provided few surprises, although Rep. Willie Dominguez, a first-term DFLer from north Minneapolis, lost to lawyer Bobby Joe Champion, who had won the DFL endorsement earlier this year.
"I ran solely on issues," said Champion, who said he focused on home foreclosures, public safety, education and health issues. "I refuse to go negative."
Meanwhile, left open until November was one large issue: whether the DFL can reach a veto-proof majority in the House; it currently is five seats short of that mark. The party currently holds such a majority in the Senate.
In central Minnesota, Republican state Rep. Mark Olson lost to Alison Krueger in the GOP primary in Senate District 16. Olson, of Big Lake, was running for the Senate after losing party endorsement for his House seat following a misdemeanor domestic assault conviction last year.
Olson has faced harsh criticism from House Republicans, who ousted him from their caucus, and from other prominent Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman. Olson said Tuesday that he faced an orchestrated Republican effort to defeat him, even though he received the GOP endorsement in the district.
Krueger said that she had not been actively campaigning since Olson won the endorsement but that a "scrappy little group of people" have been pushing her candidacy because of their opposition to Olson. "There's just such a deep divide of emotions out here," she said.
"They just want a change," Krueger said of her supporters. "They don't want Mark."
Olson said the bigger political problem for him was Republican leaders, including Senate Minority Leader David Senjem, who he said were raising money and distributing campaign flyers against him. "It's very damaging information," Olson said Tuesday. "Many members of the [Senate Republican] caucus have no issue with me at all ... it's the leadership.
House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, saw Abeler's strong victory Tuesday as a vindication of the DFL-organized override of Pawlenty's transportation veto and a sign that suburban voters wouldn't necessarily oppose a gas tax increase. "It tells us when we can lay out a case for why we need a constitutionally dedicated gas tax ... the public is going to respond to that," she said.
Kelliher also said Abeler's showing indicated that -- at least in some instances -- a GOP move to punish party members who break ranks can backfire. "It says the [Republican] caucus is out of touch with the rest of the public and it may be even with other Republicans," said Kelliher.
Abeler called his victory a vindication of his decision on the override vote. "This is a nice victory. I was afraid ... if I would have lost, people would never vote their conscience," he said.
In Minneapolis, longtime DFL Reps. Joe Mullery and Phyllis Kahn turned back primary challenges.
One of only four House members who have served since the 1970s, Kahn survived her first primary challenge in recent election cycles with a lopsided victory over Joel Rainville, who ran on a campaign for change and a "fresh perspective." He accused Kahn of having too narrow an agenda.
But Kahn said the challenge was fueled by simmering resentment over the dispute involving a new DeLaSalle High School stadium, which she opposed. Rainville, with family members who have attended DeLaSalle, said the stadium might have been a factor.
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