By Mike Kaszuba
A special state DFL panel Sunday unanimously upheld the decision to strip the party’s endorsement from Sen. Satveer Chaudhary, a leading figure at the State Capitol on outdoors issues who has been under intense political criticism for trying to get special fishing regulations for a lake where he owns a cabin.
An attorney for the controversial state senator said Sunday that Chaudhary would not appeal the decision.
The three-person panel, after deliberating for an hour, upheld local DFLers who had taken the rare step last month of stripping away the senator’s party endorsement following disclosures that Chaudhary – who chairs an influential Senate committee -- made a last-minute attempt to get special regulations for Fish Lake Reservoir where he owns a cabin.
Wayne Pulford, who chaired the special DFL panel, said Chaudhary’s challenge of the initial decision was not convincing. “The challenge was not [upheld] on all five counts,” he said afterward.
Brian Rice, Chaudhaury’s attorney, said the three-term senator would not appeal, ending a contentious political fight among DFLers over the unusual removal of a party endorsement just weeks before a critical Aug. 10 primary. Chaudhary will seek re-election against Barb Goodwin, a former legislator who was given the party’s endorsement after it was taken away from Chaudhary.
“It’s time to get on with the election,” said Rice. “The senator and his committee are disappointed.”
Sunday’s decision was the latest chapter in what has become a two-month political soap opera involving the senator.
Chaudhary’s problems began in the last days of the Legislature in May when he inserted language into game and fish legislation that sought special walleye regulations on the lake near Duluth. Gov. Tim Pawlenty, saying he was troubled by the special regulations and other aspects of the legislation, vetoed the entire game and fish bill.
In early June, a Senate ethics panel also took the unusual step of publicly admonishing the senator for his role in seeking the special regulations, saying he had violated “accepted norms of Senate behavior.”
The controversy surrounding Chaudhary continued a few weeks later when local DFL leaders in Fridley – the senator lives in Fridley – voted to strip the senator of his DFL endorsement. Local DFLers said they were also upset with the senator’s public decision not to support the party’s endorsed gubernatorial candidate, House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher.
Chaudhary has apologized for his actions, but has referred to it as a “procedural error.” The senator, who had initially backed DFL gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton, has since pledged his support to Kelliher.
Bill Krueger, the Senate District 50 DFL chair, who had presided over the hearing last month where the endorsement was taken away, said he was pleased with Sunday’s ruling. “I feel glad,” he said.