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Out gay Republican fights for political survival in Minnesota

“There’s going to be a lot of people watching to see if the voters can look at my record and say, ‘He’s doing a good job.'” Or, will they look at my personal life and say, ‘I can’t support him because of that.’ If that’s how they’re going to vote, I may be out of a job.”
— Minnesota State Sen. Paul Koering, a conservative Republican who came out of the closet last year and is facing a primary challenge tomorrow.

Tomorrow, a primary vote will put into sharp focus whether the Republicans in Minnesota are willing to choose a state senator because of his record or his sexual orientation.

Paul Koering, if you look strictly at bread and butter issues, should appeal to the conservatives in his district in rural Minnesota — he’s against abortion rights, and strong on gun ownership and property rights — but he voted against a ban on marriage equality in a vote on the floor. He was the the only Republican in the state legislature to cross over and vote with the Democrats on the measure. Koering’s opposition launched whispers about his sexuality, but he put them to rest by coming out of the closet.

His challenger, of course, is now playing the “values” card:

Kevin Goedker, a city councilman who’s challenging Koering in Tuesday’s GOP primary, says it isn’t because his opponent is gay. But he’s making an explicit appeal to voters whose values guide them in the voting booth. “People of high moral values and integrity must rally and support candidates who will work to bring ethics, morals and family values back into government,” Goedker’s father, Gene, his campaign treasurer, wrote in a fundraising letter.

Patrick Sammon, executive vice president of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay GOP group, said it’s important to the future of the Republican Party that politicians like Koering can find support.

“If the Republicans want to be a lasting majority party in America, they can’t just shut out gays and lesbians,” Sammon said.

Well, duh, Sammon. That’s a nice pipe dream, given the state of the party is under the control of cockroach-like fundamentalists. Actually, it’s worse, the GOP is overrun with homos at the highest levels — they just have to keep the closet door padlocked shut when it comes to the public, and be willing to support pols who actively legislate against gay rights. Socially moderate to liberal Republicans currently have zero support from the party establishment. The fear is palpable, and even Koering, sadly, in his fight to stay in office, has learned “a lesson” about how to survive in his party when it comes to gay issues. (Seattle PI):

It doesn’t help that a significant portion of the Republican base is dead-set against legal recognition of gay relationships, the leading front in recent years in the battle for gay rights. More than any other issues, those opposed to Koering’s re-election cite his decision to break from the party line on gay marriage.

Indeed, since that 2005 vote, he has changed course, siding with fellow Senate Republicans in more recent efforts to get a statewide vote on the definition of marriage. Koering said it’s what the majority of his constituents want, though he won’t say how he’d cast his own ballot if it ever comes to a statewide vote.

Related:
* Why Minnesota GOP State Senator Paul Koering came out

Eva at Lloydletta has several posts on Koering (1, 2, 3)

Hat tip, PageOneQ

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding