Minnesota’s only elected openly gay Republican is calling it quits following a primary loss on Tuesday. Koering was defeated by fellow Republican Paul Gazelka for the Minnesota Senate seat encompassing Brainerd. Koering, who came out in 2005, endured extreme pressure from national anti-gay groups as well as his own party in his bid to keep his Senate seat.
“The party that I’ve called home for 14 years has kind of, in essence, went off the cliff,” Koering told the St. Cloud Times. “I always tried to stay with the party to hopefully be a voice of reason within the party. But I found through this campaign that that doesn’t work anymore.”
The Republican Party of Minnesota launched a “witch hunt’ into Koering with the Morrison County Sheriff last month (Koering actually lives in Crow Wing County).
The party says that it is indeed moving to the right. Perry Nouis, chairman of the Morrison County Republican Party, told the Brainerd Dispatch, “Paul (Koering) is correct in saying the party has taken a turn to the right. After experimenting with bigger government and higher spending (we call it Democrat-lite) we recognize the need to return to our conservative principles.”
Koering says he will back the DFL candidate Taylor Stevenson in the November election.
It’s not the first time Koering has criticized the party. In his brief flirtation with a run for governor, Koering cited the reluctance of Republican delegates to support a LGBT person. “I didn’t really want to say that. [But] that’s a hurdle some delegates can’t get over,” he said late last year.
Another factor that would have likely stymied any campaign for governor was Koering’s disclosure in early June that he had dinner with a gay porn actor and had promised the young man that he would work to ensure that marriage equality passed in Minnesota.
That dinner became a campaign issue when the National Organization for Marriage sent out a mailer attacking Koering for supporting gay marriage. The mailer was so negative that even Koering’s GOP opponent condemned it.