A Republican sped up his planned exit from the state Senate, announcing Thursday he’ll resign this fall from the seat he had already opted not to again run for in 2016.
Sen. Branden Petersen said he’s been checked out of his legislative service for months and feels the district deserves a replacement who can serve the district better in time for the 2016 legislative session. The 29-year-old had been torn between foregoing re-election and resigning outright before announcing this summer he wouldn’t run for a second term — a decision, he said, rooted in a desire to focus on his young family and earn a better income.
“If I’m being honest with myself … I’m not going to be able to provide that 100 percent effort that everybody deserves,” the Andover Republican said.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press first reported his plan to leave the Legislature at the end of October. His departure triggers a special election for the district, which covers several suburbs north of Minneapolis.
Petersen was first elected to the House in 2010, and jumped to the Senate in 2012. Though his time in the Legislature was short, he forged a reputation as a Libertarian who was sensitive to privacy issues and unafraid to buck his party.
He was the lone GOP senator to vote to legalize gay marriage in 2013, a stance that sparked backlash in his conservative district, leading local party leaders to hit him with a ‘no confidence’ vote and raising the prospect of a possible 2016 primary challenge.
Petersen said Thursday that didn’t directly prompt his exit from politics, but said, “Those sorts of heavy decisions, in their totality, can certainly impact my outlook.”
Senate Minority Leader David Hann said Petersen informed him Wednesday of his plans to resign.
Sen. Dave Thompson, a friend and ally of Petersen’s, said he wasn’t surprised. “There seemed to be a switch that flipped with Branden that he wasn’t enjoying himself,” he said. “This is a tough business to be in if that is your mindset.”
Gov. Mark Dayton will call a special election for the seat. Four GOP candidates had already launched bids for a 2016 contest, including former Rep. Jim Abeler, who represented part of the area for eight terms in the House. Petersen said he wouldn’t make an endorsement.