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District 49A Republicans, in rare move, decide between two moderates

Dario Anselmo
MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday
Dario Anselmo

Republicans in Edina presented a view of their party not often seen at this year’s endorsing conventions — two candidates seeking endorsement for the District 49A House seat who hewed to the middle, instead of the right.

While GOP delegates in St. Michael and Eden Prairie recently denied endorsement to two state representatives who had voted for same-sex marriage, the delegates in 49A endorsed a declared social moderate.

Dario Anselmo, former owner of the Fine Line Music Café, defeated Polly Peterson Bowles, an attorney who was a Met Council appointee of former Gov. Arne Carlson and whose father served as a state Supreme Court justice and, earlier, represented the district.

With Anselmo’s endorsement, the voters in 49A will now choose between two candidates who reflect the district’s centrist leanings. On Saturday, incumbent state Rep. Ron Erhardt, formerly a Republican, received the DFL endorsement.

Erhardt, in switching parties in 2012, made it clear he did not agree with the GOP on such issues as gay marriage and abortion. He also maintains he’s a fiscal conservative and voted against most of the tax increases the DFL passed last year.

Anselmo, asked how he would differentiate himself from his DFL opponent, said: “I’m more conservative than Erhardt from the fiscal side, and being from business, I know the effect of too many taxes, too much regulation and too much government. Fiscally conservative and socially moderate.”

Rep. Ron Erhardt
Rep. Ron Erhardt

Like many Republicans today, Anselmo said he was opposed to the Republicans’ proposed 2012 constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as a heterosexual union.

And he’s equally clear on his position on abortion rights. “I grew up with Roe versus Wade,” he said. “This is not hard for me.”

What was trickier in securing Republican endorsement, he said, was explaining why he had contributed to candidates who were Democrats. “I’ve been stressing inclusiveness. I’ve been talking about it for years,” he said. “How do we bring more people into the tent and keep our principles?”

Both Anselmo and Erhardt know how expensive the race will be.

In 2012, Erhardt and his GOP opponent, Bill Glahn, together spent more than $100,000. With this suburban district considered a plum for both parties, both expect campaign spending to be much higher this year.

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