State Rep. David FitzSimmons, one of four Republicans to vote in favor of gay marriage last session, has decided not run for re-election, making the announcement over the weekend at his party’s endorsing convention.
(The weekend’s other GOP district conventions also made political news. Pat Garafolo, Republican representative from Farmington who also voted for gay marriage, unanimously won endorsement. Meanwhile, Republican state Rep. Mary Liz Holberg of Lakeville announced at her district convention that she will not run for a ninth term.)
Of his situation, FitzSimmons said in an interview: “It was very evident that the forces that wanted to force me out had solidified people in their opposition to me.”
Instead, House District 30A endorsed Dayton City Council Member Eric Lucero, who made FitzSimmons’ gay marriage vote the linchpin of his campaign.
FitzSimmons had been expected to lose the GOP endorsement, despite being considered a party leader in Wright County and having the support of such stalwart conservatives as Tom Emmer, a congressional candidate in the 6th District.
But FitzSimmons’ district, which includes St. Michael and Albertville, is considered one of the most socially conservative areas of the state.
The Minnesota Family Council, a strong opponent of gay marriage, immediately targeted FitzSimmons after his vote last spring.
The Family Council efforts were enhanced by activists who engaged in “some pretty rough campaigning, both political and personal,” according to Amy Koch, a former state senator for the district and a FitzSimmons supporter who attended the Wright County convention Saturday.
FitzSimmons acknowledged he felt bruised by the battle, “after a lot very half-truths and outright lies and fabrication.”
He said he hoped that by withdrawing from the endorsement contest, delegates would have opted for a third candidate, Senell Jaster, instead of Lucero, whom FitzSimmons describes as “very much out of the mainstream.”
It cited a government “assault against the family unit,” including “gay marriage and the homosexual lifestyle” and “blending the gender distinctions such as women in combat and homosexuals openly serving in the military.”
Lucero has not yet responded to an email request for an interview.
“Absolutely not” was FitzSimmons’ response to a question about whether he would have changed his gay marriage vote if he knew it would cost him a legislative seat.
He said he intends to pursue a full agenda when he returns to the state Capitol this week to complete his term.
“There’s a few things I’m going to continue to work on — education funding, issues with my local district,” he said. “I also have a bill in to allow Sunday liquor sales. Maybe without reason, I’m optimistic that that is something that could get done.”