Dave Bishop of Rochester, George Pillsbury of Wayzata, Bill Belanger of Bloomington, Dennis Ozment of Rosemount, Ed Oliver of Deephaven, Peggy Leppik of Golden Valley, Bill Schreiber of Brooklyn Park. For decades, their names were synonymous in those places and around the state with “Republican.”
In fact, of the 13 former GOP legislators who announced support for Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner Wednesday, two – David Jennings, formerly of Truman, and Rod Searle of Waseca -- rose to become speakers of the Minnesota House. Seven of the 13 served in majority caucuses.
Jennings and Searle in particular must have been surprised to learn that GOP state chair Tony Sutton called the 13 Horner backers "a generation of Republicans that were not successful, the permanent minority.” Plenty of Minnesotans were likely startled by what came next from Sutton: “There’s a special place in hell for these quislings."
Those are harsh words about 13 people who, to a person, wore the GOP label through multiple terms and served with distinction. The list includes people who were and still are serious practitioners of public policy. Few legislators left a deeper imprint on environmental policy than Ozment, or higher education than Leppik, or tax policy than Belanger.
At least one of the “quislings,” former Bloomington mayor and state Rep. Neil Peterson, has reason to ask Sutton whether a political party has a duty of loyalty to its longtime standard-bearers. Peterson was denied endorsement and defeated in the GOP primary in 2008 after voting with DFLers and five other Republicans that February to override Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto of a major transportation funding bill. He had held local and legislative elective office for 21 years before his ouster. General election voters evidently took a dim view of the GOP's treatment of Peterson; they elected a DFLer, Rep. Paul Rosenthal, to succeed him.