Six moderates out, six conservatives in: GOP changes leadership in wake of override vote


Six Republican members of the Minnesota House who voted with the DFL majority to override Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto of the $6.6 billion transportation bill have been stripped of their committee positions and replaced with more conservative Republicans.

For another perspective, Political punishment for six Republicans by Mike Cook, Session Weekly

Here’s a quick rundown of the conservative bona fides of the new leaders installed by House Minority Leader Marty Seifert:

* Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, will replace Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, on the Health Care and Human Services Committee. Dean’s voting record puts him at a 95 percent approval rating from the anti-abortion Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL). He was a cosponsor of legislation to mandate photo identification for voting in Minnesota and legislation to prevent state-sponsored health programs from funding abortions. He supported the constitutional amendment to ban civil unions and same-sex marriage, opposed medical marijuana, and supports market-based solutions to the health care crisis. Dean is a fairly regular guest on the radio show of former Minnesota Taxpayers League president David Strom.

* Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, will replace Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, on the Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Committee. A dairy farmer advocate, Urdahl is a bit less conservative than others in the new crop of leaders, with only a 60 percent lifetime rating from the Taxpayers League. He was rumored to be among those who would overturn Pawlenty’s veto on the transportation bill, and this promotion would seem to be a reward for his vote against the override.

* Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, will replace Rep. Kathy Tingelstad, R-Andover, on the Capital Investment Committee. Howes raised eyebrows when the Rake magazine wrote about religion at the State Capitol in 2005. After hearing of a letter criticizing one of his colleagues for supporting the anti-gay marriage amendment, Howes looked into where the constituent worked — the Crow Wing County Human Services Department. According to the Rake, Howes told a gathering of evangelicals at the Capitol, “I want you to know that I’ve already looked into de-funding that agency.” Howes has a 100 percent rating from MCCL.

* Rep. Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton, will replace Rep. Bud Heidgerken, R-Freeport, on the K-12 Finance Committee. To call Erickson a social conservative is an understatement. On the subject of running for office, she told Hometown News in 2004, “I leave it to the Lord if it’s the right thing for me to do.” She has offered legislation to make English Minnesota’s official language, and she has championed abstinence-based sex education and library Internet pornography filters. She coauthored legislation with former Rep. Arlon Lindner to remove language that makes it illegal to fire or evict gays and lesbians based solely on their sexual orientation. Together with the Minnesota Family Council, Erickson authored abstinence-until-marriage legislation and has the ear of the conservative education group EdWatch, an outfit that once accused Pawlenty of being “pro-homosexual.”

* Rep. Morrie Lanning, R- Moorhead, will replace Rep. Ron Erhardt, R-Edina, on the Property Tax Relief and Local Sales Taxes Committee. Lanning’s claim to fame includes several bills aimed at outlawing certain drink specials in bars and clubs, not a notably libertarian thing to do considering Republican opposition to restricting property rights (think smoking bans). He has also authored legislation aimed at banning devices that vaporize alcohol for inhalation. Lanning is a relative fiscal moderate by the lights of his party, earning a lifetime score of 63 percent from the Taxpayers League. But Lanning garners a 100 percent rating from MCCL and supports a constitutional amendment banning civil unions and same-sex marriage, putting him squarely in the social conservative camp.

* Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, will become the assistant House minority whip in place of the deposed Rep. Neil Peterson, R-Bloomington. Garofalo has made a name for himself in the God, guns and gays arena, as Britt Robson pointed out in a 2006 City Pages profile of the legislator: “During his brief tenure at the Capitol, the 33-year-old freshman legislator has co-sponsored the conceal-and-carry gun-permit law as well as bills that would exclude family-planning grants for organizations supplying abortion services, establish a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, and rename the State Office Building after Ronald Reagan.”