Stripped of her leadership role, excoriated at her endorsing convention and ostracized within her caucus, Rep. Kathy Tingelstad, R-Andover, signaled an end to a 12-year legislative career on Monday, declaring that she would not seek reelection.
Tingelstad's departure is the first real casualty of the "Override Six" -- the small band of Republican legislators who bucked their party when they voted to overturn Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto of the $6.6 billion state transportation bill last month.
Fallout from the override was not the only factor in her decision, Tingelstad said. She has two college-age sons and few chances to boost her income while serving in a Legislature that has gone to nearly year-round meetings.
"I did some real soul-searching with my family this last couple of weeks," she said.Still fresh was the memory of last month's endorsing convention, where, Tingelstad said, both state Republican Party chairman Ron Carey and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann spoke out against those who failed to hew to the party line. The vote on Tingelstad's party endorsement was postponed and was to have been held this weekend.
"I wanted to make my decision in time for another Republican to get endorsed," she said. Nevertheless, Tingelstad fears her party will lose the seat, which is in a swing district that has been tilting increasingly moderate.
DFLers have already endorsed Jerry Newton, an Anoka Hennepin school board member, former Coon Rapids City Council member and Vietnam veteran. "He's very well known in the district," Tingelstad said. "Republicans want someone conservative, and it's a very moderate area. I think it's likely it will swing to the Democrats."
Anoka County Commissioner Dan Erhart, a longtime friend of Tingelstad's who describes himself as a "middle-of-the-road conservative Democrat," said Tingelstad's departure would further shrink moderate ranks."It's a tragedy to see good middle-of-the-road people like her leave," he said. "She was a rock, a light in the Legislature for years, especially on transit. Without her, we wouldn't be looking at Northstar going into operation next year. She was a visionary."
Northstar is the commuter rail line that is to run between Minneapolis and Big Lake.
House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, said that Tingelstad and others knew there would be repercussions to their override decision.
"Kathy's my friend," he said. "We came into the House together 12 years ago. She'll be remembered for her work on transit, the environment and adoption issues. But I gave people fair warning about what might happen."Tingelstad said she will continue her work for the remainder of the session but doesn't expect her decision to make things any rougher for her.
"I don't think I could be more of an outcast than I've been for the last month," she said. "Actually, this should be kind of liberating."
Patricia Lopez • 651-222-1288