Rep. Neil Peterson, R-Bloomington, started the legislative session on Feb. 12 as the House assistant minority whip. But that changed the day after Peterson voted with all House DFLers on an override of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto on the transportation bill.
Peterson said he wasn’t surprised when he was stripped of his leadership post in the GOP House caucus. But the news stung nonetheless.
“The hardest part is the public flogging. Most of us as human beings, we’re seldom intimidated but easily embarrassed,” Peterson said.
Peterson said he is still a Republican. But he can’t say what his chances are of winning his party’s endorsement for reelection later this year.
“If you take the road less traveled there are going to be bumps,” he said.
Peterson was one of six Republicans punished for their votes in favor of the override of the $6.6 billion bill that will increase transportation funding over 10 years.
Besides Peterson, House Republicans who voted in favor of the override were: Jim Abeler of Anoka, Ron Erhardt of Edina, Rod Hamilton of Mountain Lake, Bud Heidgerken of Freeport and Kathy Tingelstad of Andover.
House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, said the changes involved minor leadership positions and that the six GOP legislators will remain in the caucus. The representatives who voted in favor of the bill knew before the override vote took place they could lose their positions, Seifert said.
“All or most of these folks understand what’s happening,” said Seifert in a brief interview Wednesday. Seifert downplayed the changes, adding that the media has blown what happened out of proportion.
Seifert appeared at a press conference on Tuesday with Pawlenty and Senate Minority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester. Despite the failure to uphold Pawlenty’s veto – the first time that’s happened through Pawlenty’s six years and 55 vetoes – Seifert said House Republicans are “standing united as a team” and will be “buckling down” for future fights this session on the bonding bill and the budget deficit.
The leadership positions were filled by Republicans who voted in favor of the bill.
Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, is the new assistant minority whip.
Abeler was replaced as lead Republican on the Health Care and Human Services Finance Division by Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, who was already a member.
Erhardt was replaced as lead Republican on the Property Tax Relief and Local Sales Tax Division by Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, who was already a member.
Hamilton was replaced as the lead Republican on the Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Committee by Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City. Urdahl was already on the committee.
Heidgerken was replaced as lead Republican on the K-12 Finance Committee by Rep. Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton. Erickson was already a member and is the lead Republican on the E-12 Education policy committee.
Tingelstad was replaced as the lead Republican on the Capital Investment Committee by Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker. Howes was already a member of the committee.
The five representatives who lost committee leadership positions remain members on those committees.