When Rep. Joyce Peppin chaired the government operations committee in 2012, the plan for the new Vikings stadium landed on her desk. She opposed it as an overpriced boondoggle.
But Peppin, who was elected House majority leader by her Republican colleagues this month, still gave the stadium bill a hearing and allowed a vote (rather than stick it in a locked drawer, as committee chairs have been known to do).
It failed, before being revived by the House Ways and Means Committee and eventually becoming law.
The thanks Peppin received: thousands of nasty letters, including threats, though nothing she took seriously.
During an interview in her small office last week — she’ll soon move into nicer majority digs — Peppin said the stadium episode foreshadows how she will approach her role as majority leader, where she will act as Speaker-designate Kurt Daudt’s House floor manager. Although she said she’s one of the most conservative members of her caucus, she pledged to balance her ideological convictions with a desire to be a fair-minded representative of all Republican members and all Minnesotans.
“I’m not going to try to pull a bunch of junk on the Democrats. We represent all the people of the state,” she said.
Balance is key for Peppin, 44. It was the Republican mantra of the campaign season — that state government needed balance after two years of a DFL governor and Legislature.
Though she represents suburban Rogers, Peppin grew up on a farm, and she said Republicans, who picked up 10 seats in outstate Minnesota, will bring geographic balance to the House.
Then there’s her personal life. While serving in the Legislature and raising two daughters — 13 and 15, both in Catholic school — Peppin finished her MBA, went to law school and, in 2013, passed the bar exam becoming the only attorney in the GOP caucus at the time.
It helped that her husband was often able to work at home. He’s politico Gregg Peppin, who was senior adviser to the gubernatorial campaign of Jeff Johnson. They met when both worked for House Republicans in the 1990s.
Yes, they talk about politics at home. A lot. And the teenage daughters kind of wish they would stop already, Peppin said.
Peppin will be one of a handful of women legislative leaders, though don’t expect it to matter a whit: “I think most people know I’m not a shrinking violet,” she said.
When she talked about how Republicans can do better with female voters, especially in the suburbs, Peppin provided some clues for the upcoming legislative session.
“Focus on bread-and-butter issues that play out with families,” she said, such as taxes and the economy, schools, roads, MNsure fixes and senior and veteran care.
It will be a “fairly limited and simple” agenda, she said. And infused with a heavy dose of realism: “Can we completely repeal or roll things back? We don’t have control of everything, so we have to be realistic as to what we can do.”