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Minnesotan kicks off N.J. same-sex marriage push as GOP House supporters here go it alone

So far, and it’s early in the 2014 election cycle, the four Republican House members who supported same-sex marriage are facing no primary opponents.

Richard Carlbom in the Capitol Rotunda celebrating the Minnesota Senate's passage of the same-sex marriage bill earlier this year.
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen

Richard Carlbom, the director of the campaign that legalized same-sex marriage in Minnesota, is back in the thick of things in New Jersey.

On Wednesday, Carlbom helped kick off “New Jersey United for Marriage,” a campaign that he will direct to overturn Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of 2012 legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry. Carlbom said he will rely on his Minnesota experience.  

“Our goal is to override Governor Christie’s veto and we will need strong Republican help to do so,” he said. “Politically, this is a huge opportunity for people. We understand that our country is moving toward greater freedom, so there are more people who are confident that they should stand on the side of freedom. I see this as a very conservative issue in some ways and that clears the pathway for everybody.”

In Minnesota, five Republican legislators followed that path and voted for Minnesota same-sex marriage legislation. Four of them are House members who must run for re-election next year. Same-sex marriage opponents Minnesota for Marriage and the Minnesota Family Council have promised to educate voters about the vote taken by Andrea Kieffer of Woodbury, Pat Garofalo of Farmington, David Fitzsimmons of Albertville, and Jennifer Loon of Eden Prairie.

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So far, and it’s early in the 2014 election cycle, the four are facing no primary opponents. Party activists say that Keiffer, Garofalo and Fitzsimmons appear to have satisfactorily answered the concerns of the delegates who could block their endorsement.

Loon has had more difficulties in House district 48B. The problems are not with the general electorate, 60 percent of whom voted against the constitutional amendment to define marriage in Minnesota exclusively as the union between a man and a woman.

According to several sources, Loon had a contentious meeting with delegates after the close of the legislative session, where some of the delegates “railed on her” about her vote. Said one source about the possibility that Loon will face a Republican challenger, “You never know until endorsement time rolls around.”

The Minnesotans United political action committee that was formed right after Gov. Mark Dayton signed same-sex marriage legislation into law has pledged to support all legislators whose yes vote could put them into political hot water. The pledge specifically covered Democrats and Republicans.

But for the moment, Minnesotans United is staying away from Republican territory. One legislator, Garofalo, even maintains he has enough support from his district that he will not need the MU PAC money.

Carlbom declined to be specific about his PAC’s eventual involvement in targeted legislative races except to note that the PAC continues to send out requests for contributions. “The money raised by the PAC has been very strong, but we haven’t raised enough,” he said.

Meanwhile, Carlbom has campaigns with shorter deadlines. The New Jersey United for Marriage campaign wants a vote on the veto override during the legislative session that starts in November. That is the same time frame for a same-sex marriage vote in Illinois, another campaign Carlbom is directing. 

In Minnesota, House members who need to defend their seats from same-party challengers have started their work independent of the Minnesotans United PAC. A request for help, if it comes at all, will be months in the future.