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Lifelong Republican stalwart George Pillsbury says he’s voting for Obama

George Pillsbury
George Pillsbury

A grand old Republican, George Pillsbury, was planning to wear his GOP, elephant-covered tie to a luncheon today. But on Tuesday, he’ll be voting for Democrat Barack Obama for president.

“First time in my life I’ve voted for Democrat for president,” said the 87-year-old Wayzata resident this morning.  “I not only concluded I would vote for a Democrat, but that I would announce what I’m going to do before I vote.”

Two major issues — the U.S. relationship with other nations and abortion — moved Pillsbury to Obama.

“Two months ago, I heard Obama say, ‘I’ll go to the United Nations and I’ll announce, ‘We’re back!’ That appealed to me. How can we stop fighting if we don’t work with the United Nations?” 

The war in Iraq has troubled Pillsbury so much that in 2004, he refused to vote for the re-election of President Bush, but he didn’t vote for Democratic challenger John Kerry, either.

“I just left that part of the ballot blank,” Pillsbury said.

The other major issue that moved Pillsbury to Obama is abortion. Before Roe v. Wade, Pillsbury, a strong believer in family planning, supported a woman’s right to have a legal abortion. As a state senator in 1971, he wrote legislation that would have put harsh penalties on “back-alley, coat-hanger abortions.” But that same bill would have allowed physicians to perform legal abortions.  The legislation went nowhere.

Pillsbury was upset when he received a recent mailing from the state Republican Party, urging people to support Republican candidates.

“On that mailing, were the words ‘Vote Pro Life,”’ Pillsbury said. “… So many moderates in my party feel left out.”

Laughing, Pillsbury said that he’s had a large, family network nudging him toward Obama.

“I’ve been persuaded by my 10 grandchildren,” he said. “Many of them are working all over the country for Obama.”

Pillsbury implied that he won’t vote Democratic all through the ballot, but he may not vote Republican, either.

“I may vote for the independent candidates,” he said of how he’ll vote in the Senate and 3rd District congressional races.

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Randi Reitan on 11/03/2008 - 12:16 pm.

    Thank you, Doug Grow, for covering this story. Thank you, George Pillsbury, for speaking out. Your family is legendary in Minnesota and your views are ones that will speak to many. My parents are no longer living but they were active Republicans in northern Minnesota when I was growing up. In their last years, they no longer identified themselves as Repubican because they felt the party had been taken over by a real right wing religious fundamentalism. One of the important issues for my mom was the Republican stance on gay rights. We have a gay son, Jake, who she adored. She spoke out for him and certainly would not vote for any person who wasn’t ready to see the day of full and equal rights for him. These last months Jake has been working as a fundraiser for Obama. My parents would have been so proud to vote for Obama. I am most certain they also would be casting a vote for Al Franken who also will fight for equality for our son. For our family, the issue of equality is a passion. It should be for every family who believes in America.

  2. Submitted by Elizabeth Dunn on 11/03/2008 - 12:32 pm.

    Thank you, Mr. Pillsbury! May this election mark the return of the TRULY conservative Republican party and the end of its highjacking by incompetent ideologues.

  3. Submitted by Rod Loper on 11/03/2008 - 02:20 pm.

    Waves of nostalgia sweep over me for those days when
    classy people like the Andersens, Daytons, Pillsburys
    and Hefflefingers moved in our politics. They got rich,
    treated their employees well had had an eye on civic duty and making the world a better place. The contrast with the arriviste republicans of today is troubling.
    They can’t wait to flee to a tax haven or blow up in some Ponzi scheme. Thank you Senator Pillsbury!

  4. Submitted by Barbara Heinitz on 11/03/2008 - 05:56 pm.

    Way to go George. I think if my father were alive, he’d agree!

  5. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 11/04/2008 - 09:09 am.

    Hey George, get ready to say “goodbye” to all your dough.

  6. Submitted by mike triggs on 11/04/2008 - 09:43 am.

    Good for George! He was always my favorite Minnesota Republican. Unfortunately, the “Big Tent” political party I once loved has made it all but impossible for people like Arne Carlson, George and me to feel welcome anymore.

    When the last vote is counted and Ron Carey and his ilk are left scratching their heads wondering what happened, someone at GOP headquarters will realize you can’t win elections without the help of those of us in the middle. Mike Triggs, former Executive Director of the Minnesota Party

  7. Submitted by Dion Goldman on 11/04/2008 - 12:03 pm.

    Thank you Senator Pillsbury for going public on this. I know you have been hopeful that the Republican party would return to their real roots. I am still not convinced they will though.

  8. Submitted by Amanda Pillsbury on 11/08/2008 - 11:56 am.

    As one of those 10 grandchildren , I just want to say THANK YOU PAPA! We love you!

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