Minnesota legislators who took a political risk in voting in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage last year have posted big campaign finance hauls, according to reports made public Saturday.
The House members whose 2013 votes were contrary to most in their party or their districts brought in double, triple or even quadruple the cash they raised in 2011, according to a Star Tribune analysis.
While many members of the House brought in more cash in 2013 than they did in 2011, the legislators who are expected to be targeted this year because of their same-sex marriage support stand out.
The hefty campaign coffers may prove particularly helpful if they face strong challengers or voter backlash.
“It’s an incredibly strong statement by people who supported the freedom to marry,” said Richard Carlbom, a spokesman for Minnesota United, the group that fought the proposed 2012 constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and lobbied last year for Minnesota to legalize those unions.
Carlbom said the group and its allies had contributed or helped to raise $500,000 to support officials who voted for same-sex marriage.
That work is clear in some of the reports released Saturday.
Thirteen legislators who voted for same-sex marriage in districts where the voters did not approve it, or in Republican districts, brought in 2 ½ times as much in 2013 as they did in 2011. When comparing all House members’ 2011 hauls with their 2013 hauls, those numbers merely doubled.
Rep. Pat Garofalo, a Farmington Republican who voted to legalize same-sex marriage, took in nearly $54,000 last year, among the most in the GOP caucus and four times what he raised in 2011.
Garofalo was one of four House Republicans to vote “yes” on legalizing same-sex marriage last spring. The majority of his district’s voters said in 2012 that they wanted to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage.
His haul could give him a hefty defense should anyone try to defeat him at the polls. He also said his cash may come in handy to help other Republicans, as the GOP tries to retake the House this year.
Republican Rep. Dave FitzSimmons of Albertville had a similar approach. FitzSimmons, who voted to legalize same-sex marriage, raised $26,000 last year — and gave almost all of it to GOP groups.
“I believe that my No. 1 job is to represent the interest of my district, and their interests would be best represented with a change in leadership in the Minnesota House,” said FitzSimmons, who ran one of the least-expensive House campaigns in the state in 2012.
FitzSimmons, who has a challenger from within the GOP this year, said that he is seeking re-election and that he’ll raise more money if necessary.
DFL Rep. Joe Radinovich of Crosby started this year with about half of the $44,000 he’d raised left in the bank. He, too, voted to approve same-sex marriage despite the fact that in 2012, 62 percent of voters in his district voted to ban it.
Radinovich, a freshman who won his first race by 323 votes, said donors have appreciated that vote, along with other stands that “took some courage.” But he’s not resting his re-election chances on fundraising.
“I don’t think that raising a lot of money is what’s going to keep me in office,” Radinovich said, as he rushed Saturday from tiny Palisade’s winter festival to a local homecoming and the Serpent Lake Ice Fishing Contest.
House members of both parties will have well-financed caucus campaign committees to help keep them in office.
According to reports filed last week, the House Republican campaign committee raised $1 million and had $523,000 left to spend on the quest to win the House in November. Well-known names in GOP funding circles made generous contributions: Television and radio billionaire Stanley Hubbard donated $75,000; former Target CEO Robert Ulrich gave $25,000; CEO William Austin of Starkey Labs also gave $25,000.
The House DFL campaign committee did slightly better to support the party’s drive to keep control of the House. The party’s House committee raised $1.2 million and had $638,000 left. Among its big donors: $70,000 from the Laborers District Council of MN & ND; $30,000 from the Minnesota Association for Professional Employees union, and $100,000 from DFL donor Alida Messinger, the ex-wife of Gov. Mark Dayton.