One of the most stark contrasts in any state legislative race this year lies in the House District 37B face-off between ultra-conservative Republican Judy Lindsay and moderate DFLer Phil Sterner. The southeastern metro district trends moderate and has overwhelmingly supported retiring moderate Republican Dennis Ozment. But two years ago Amy Klobuchar carried the district, and districts to the north and west have elected DFLers to the House and Senate. So in a big picture sense, the district appears to be on the expanding edge of recent DFL advances (or Republican losses).
Even Ozment thinks that Lindsay might be too extreme for the district.
Minnesota’s DFL leaders are looking to expand their lead in the House by five votes in order to create a veto-proof majority in that body, while Republicans are looking to stave off any losses as more Republicans have left open seats in 2008. District 37B is seen as an opportunity for both sides.
Judy Lindsay has been a tireless opponent of gays and lesbians, is staunchly pro-life and is extremely anti-taxes. She’s made her mark in the district serving for eight years on a school board serving Apple Valley, Rosemount and Eagan. While on the board she relentlessly opposed increasing funding for the public school district while sending her own kids to private school. “I don’t have to worry about our values being undermined” in private school, she said in 2000.
An ambitious conservative, Lindsay challenged Ozment in the 2002 Republican primary and lost. She picked herself up and jumped back into politics in 2003 by assisting Rep. Arlon Lindner in his efforts to remove protections for gays and lesbians from Minnesota’s Human Rights Act.
That Minnesota’s gays and lesbians were protected from housing and employment discrimination frightened Lindsay. At a press conference supporting Lindner’s initiative, she said, “We are afraid of the sex pushers coming into our community and pandering to the curiosity of children and childlike adults.”
Lindner’s initiative failed, and because of inflammatory statements regarding the bill and about the Holocaust, AIDS in Africa and the Dalai Lama, Lindner was found in violation of House ethics standards in 2003.
The controversy caused a successful primary challenge to Lindner by Joyce Peppin. Judy Lindsay jumped on board to support Lindner’s losing campaign as an independent, and in the process engendered still more controversy. Lindsay’s overzealous campaigning resulted in a complaint with the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board.
Lindsay moved on for a stint as president of the conservative interest group the Legislative Evaluation Assembly as well as founding her own anti-homosexuality group, “In Defense of Innocence.” As spokeswoman for the group, she was tireless in demonizing gays and lesbians. “The facts speak for themselves. Homosexuality is dangerous and risky,” she wrote in a Rosemount newspaper. “Students should not be encouraged to enter this lifestyle. They should be warned of the dangers and the facts that many individuals have successfully left the homosexual lifestyle. It is too bad their schools lie and keep this important information from them.”
When Lindsay won the Republican endorsement in March, her Republican predecessor was not kind. “Judy’s an extremist,” Ozment told the Pioneer Press. “Everybody knows my opposition to Judy. She doesn’t support education. She’s just not electable. If they would endorse her, I’m afraid the Republicans would lose that seat.”
That’s exactly what the DFL is banking on. Phil Sterner is a moderate DFLer with long history in the district. An insurance agent, Sterner serves on the Rosemount City Council and the Apple Valley Chamber of Commerce. He’s a pro-life DFLer, as well as a supporter of green technology and renewable energy to create jobs. He took small steps to save the city money by reducing energy use at city facilities, reducing water use for city land and using prairie grass instead of lawn grass to reduce maintenance costs in city parks.
He says wants to use state funds for education in hopes of reducing the burden of property taxes.
Residents of the district are polarized between the two. Many are very enthusiastic supporters of Lindsay, while others claim the mantra “Anybody but Judy.” Accusations of push-polling phone calls have sprung up, with both sides denying involvement, and letters to the editor of the local paper have been heated.
As of the end of primary reporting, both campaigns had sizable war chests for a suburban House district. Lindsay had more than $13,000 in cash on hand and Sterner has just over $10,000.
The first and only debate between Lindsay and Sterner was held on Oct. 14, and the Rosemount Town Pages offers the debate video on their Web site. One interesting question starkly caught Lindsay’s anti-government platform.
A question from the audience read, “How come most representatives don’t do more legislatively or through ordinances for the handicapped and the elderly?”
Lindsay responded, “It comes down to a basic issue of the proper role of the government. As much as we want to be able to help everyone, government can’t. So I’m thinking that the person might think that there needs to be more government programs for the elderly or the handicapped. And I don’t think the answer is government.” Lindsay said it should be the role of churches and other organizations. “I think that the proper role of government is not to give handouts to special interest groups.”
Sterner said that accessibility is an important role for government as long as it is economically feasible for businesses and taxpayers.