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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Laurie Sturdevant on Paul Koering

Laurie Sturdevant from the Strib went to Senator Paul Koering's district convention. She wrote her column about the experience here.

Count 'em: Seven, eight -- no, nine! -- senators had forsaken their usual weeknight comforts in order to stand in the back of a noisy hall and shake a few hands on behalf of their colleague, Sen. Paul Koering.

It was a rare show of support. But then, Koering is a rare guy. The likable 41-year-old business owner left the proverbial closet last spring, becoming the only openly gay Republican in the Legislature. His voting record tilts toward the political middle. He's respected enough by DFLers to have landed a seat on the bonding bill conference committee.

As a result, he had attracted a serious challenge for his party's blessing from Brainerd City Council Member Kevin Goedker.

"You can tell a person by his friends," Koering told the 106 delegates to the Senate District 12 GOP convention, with a nod to the senators sporting Koering buttons. "I've got some great friends."

You also can tell a political party by the way it treats its Paul Koerings. Tuesday night, the stalwarts of Morrison and Crow Wing counties made their good state senator run a mean, seven-ballot gantlet. But in the end, they behaved like a political force that's serious about being this state's majority party, and endorsed Koering for a second term.

He may not be out of range of shots from the social right. Goedker wasn't promising to abide by the endorsement at the convention's end. His supporters, like Jeff Hilgart of Brainerd, who exhorted delegates to "Do it God's way!" in choosing a Senate endorsee, will undoubtedly egg Goedker on to enter the Sept. 12 primary.

But it says something positive about Republican political maturity that the District 12 delegates did not succumb to Goedker's pitch.

"This is not about Paul's orientation," the challenger, a real estate agent and former Marine, allowed after ticking off complaints about Koering's failure to follow the Taxpayers League's bidding more than 62 percent of the time, and his opposition to cuts in MinnesotaCare health insurance for the working poor.

But Goedker was a fount of lines like, "We have to get back to basic moral and family values."

Since Koering opposes abortion, we know what Goedker was referring to, and why Gazelka recruited him to run.

Sturdevant goes on:

He [Senate Minority Leader Dick Day] has to be worried this year about how voters are reacting to the state Republican Party's hyper-eagerness to constitutionally ban same-sex marriages and civil unions. As recently as November and December, Republicans were upset by DFLers in two special elections, in Minnetonka and St. Cloud, in which GOP hostility to gay rights apparently did not play well with voters.

Rejecting Koering would have written the Republicans' anti-gay reputation in an ugly boldface. That may be why, when Koering finally eked out an endorsement Tuesday night, Day wiped his brow and muttered, "Whew!"

Read the whole thing.