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Last update: March 21, 2004 at 11:23 AM

Lindner defeated in bid to run again

Dee Depass,  Star Tribune
March 21, 2004LIND0321

After 12 years in the Minnesota Legislature, this will be the last for state Rep. Arlon Lindner, R-Corcoran. The fiercely conservative and controversial legislator for District 33 was defeated Saturday by Republican delegates who handed their party's primary endorsement to Joyce Peppin, a former communications consultant for the House Republican Caucus and U.S. Bank.

Lindner, 68, conceded defeat in a speech following the vote at the district convention, held in Rogers. He said later that he would not actively support Peppin.

He acknowledged that his inflammatory comments and sponsorship of a bill to strip gays of protection under Minnesota's Human Rights law sparked a campaign to get rid of him.

"Things have not been the same since last year," Lindner said in a phone interview from his home Saturday night. "I feel I have been undermined within my own caucus by the leadership. Not by the rank-and-file members or the staff. It's just a part of the leadership."

The leadership, he said, has the power to hold and stop legislation.

"They see that bills don't get hearings. They can fix it to where you look bad in your own district, especially if you have the executive assistant to the speaker and the majority leader going out and telling people that you are ineffective and not doing anything. And that is basically what happened," Lindner said.

He was referring to Peppin's husband, Greg Peppin, who has served as an executive assistant to the House speaker and majority leader.

Greg Peppin dismissed the allegation, saying only, "I attribute her success to her hard work and her bringing in a lot of new Republicans into the party."

Joyce Peppin, who most recently served five years as a spokeswoman for U.S. Bancorp, said that Lindner didn't lose because of the way he voted. Rather, she said, it was because he wasn't the lead sponsor on legislation on a wide array of issues important to the ideals of a staunchly conservative district. She added that if elected, she intends to sponsor bills in favor of school choice, increased funding for suburban pupils and ending taxpayer funding of abortions for poor women.

While she commended Lindner's 12 years of service, she added: "This is a conservative district, and I think the delegates are looking for a new messenger to carry forth a Republican agenda."

Lindner, a Dallas native who came to Minnesota in 1969, said he will take some time off and work on various repairs around his house. Before joining the Legislature, he sold real estate and was a landlord on various properties he owned.

But he will remain best known for his controversial comments during his tenure in the Minnesota House. Last year he angered gay, Jewish and black legislators with comments doubting that homosexuals were persecuted by Nazis during the Holocaust and expressing concern that gay rights could eventually lead to an African-like AIDS epidemic in the United States.

The comments sparked ethics complaints from DFLers, but Lindner was cleared after a hearing ended in a partisan deadlock.

On Saturday, State Sen. Warren Limmer of Maple Grove, who also represents the 33rd District, explained the party vote.

"The comments of the past were not brought up [during the voting] but they were certainly underlying factors in the minds of some delegates," said Limmer, who remains an avid Lindner supporter.

"I am disappointed that our party had to go in this direction," he said. "There is no easy way to sometimes ease someone out of office. And yet I think there were other options that could have been employed. I am just disappointed that we had to have a tear in our party unity. Though I believe it will be temporary."

Even with the acrimony and political defeat, Lindner said he is disappointed that he will not be able to again introduce his bill to remove sexual orientation language from Minnesota's Human Rights Act.

Lindner said that Minnesota is one of 13 states to include sexual orientation in its human-rights laws. He added that the current law gives gays "extra powers because the state is backing them." He said such protection lets homosexual students in public schools demand to have clubs and to threaten legal action if denied. Such legal threats are also possible to employers, he alleges.

Of Lindner's defeat Saturday, Limmer said that about 150 delegates voted Saturday with more than 87 voting for Peppin in the fifth round of balloting (the number of times balloting occurred before the required 60 percent majority was obtained).

"Conservatives in the district have been very proud of Arlon's rigorous defense of their values. And that is why you don't have an acclamation type of endorsement but why you have the split endorsement."

Dee DePass is at ddepass@startribune.com.