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Capital Chatter: Marriage amendment backers count on DFL votes

ST. PAUL -- Conventional political wisdom is that a gay-marriage prohibition on the Nov. 6 ballot would pit Democratic-Farmer-Laborites against Republicans.

"It is not that cut and dried," Chuck Darrell said.

Darrell, Minnesota for Marriage spokesman, said Democrats are needed to pass a constitutional amendment to define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

On Nov. 6, Minnesota voters will decide whether to insert the marriage definition into the state Constitution.

Darrell, whose group is pushing the amendment, said exit polls during a similar California vote showed 36 percent of Democrats favored the constitutional amendment, as did 56 percent of union households.

"We are counting on 40 percent of the DFL vote here in Minnesota to vote for the marriage amendment, and similar numbers within the minority communities," Darrell said, adding that Ethiopian communities are examples of traditional Democrats backing the amendment.

Darrell said DFL efforts to drive up turnout for the President Barack Obama also could help produce pro-amendment voters.

At the same time, some conservative libertarians may not vote for it because they oppose the government interfering with the family.

"Support for the marriage amendment crosses every kind of boundary you can imagine," Darrell said.

Sociology professor Debra Peterson of Bemidji State University agreed that party preference is not a firm sign: "Even within parties, there is a difference of opinion."

Still, she said, "my observation is those who are more religiously conservative tend to ... feel marriage needs to be protected from what they perceive as a threat, a threat being gay marriage."

DFL state convention delegates voted more than a month ago to oppose the amendment, and the party is working against it.

Voting starts

Minnesota voters have until Aug. 13 to cast absentee ballots.

The secretary of state's offers information about voting absentee and provides a way to check on an absentee ballot's status.

"We anticipate that almost 300,000 Minnesotans will vote by absentee ballot this election," Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said. "Having the option of casting an absentee ballot is important, especially for our military personnel who are serving overseas."

Minnesota's primary election is Aug. 14, with the general election Nov. 6.

State law allows Minnesotans to vote absentee if they will be gone from their precinct on election day and a few other specific reasons. Just because someone wants to vote early is not a legal reason to vote absentee.

Voters may get absentee ballots from local elections offices, usually the county auditor, to vote in person. Forms for mail absentee ballots and other voting information are available at

Military and other overseas voters follow different procedures, available at

No earmarking

Minnesota Senate Transportation Chairman Joe Gimse praised the elimination of earmarks from the just-passed federal transportation bill.

Washington earmarks long have been attacked in Washington. They allow members of Congress, especially powerful ones, to designate federal money for projects in their areas.

At times, Gimse said, earmarks went unspent because state and local governments did not have funds to pay for their share of projects. That meant the money was not available for other projects.

"This bill required an enormous amount of compromise by members of both the Republican-led House and Democrat-led Senate," the Willmar Republican said. "After years of short-term extensions that left members of Minnesota's construction industry in a lurch, there will now be some certainty that their jobs will be more secure as we move forward."

Tpaw's stepmother dies

Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty's stepmother has died.

Marie V. (Dockendorf) Pawlenty, 87, was a Cottage Grove resident who married Pawlenty's father, Gene, in 1981, although they had met and dated 40 years earlier. They married after their first spouses died.

Gene Pawlenty died in 2000, after his youngest son had become a legislator.

The South Washington County Bulletin reported the future governor lived with them about four years before he was married.

In an interview a few years ago, Marie Pawlenty said that being the stepmother to a politician and dealing with negative advertisements did not affect her because she said she knew the "real Tim."

"I don't really watch the negative stuff very thoroughly," she said. "What people said about him never bothered me because I have my own feelings."

'Education governor'

Mark Dayton wanted to be known as the education governor, and the National Education Association says he is.

The teachers' group gave the Minnesota governor an award calling the Democrat this year's "greatest education governor."

"He has kept his promise to make education a top priority of his administration by increasing education funding and focusing on our earliest learners," NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said.

Dayton and the state teachers' union, Education Minnesota, have not always agreed on policies, but the group praised his leadership.

"Gov. Dayton understands that investing in the education of our children is critical to Minnesota's future success," Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher said.

Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Daily Globe.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.