Heidgerken gets mostly support from constituents after being disciplined for voting for veto override
With two Republican Party conventions to attend last weekend in his district, Rep. Bud Heidgerken knew he'd be walking into the lion's den.
He seemed to come out unharmed.
As one of six Republican House members who voted to override Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto of the transportation bill, Heidgerken was prepared to be peppered with questions and criticisms.
He'd also heard there was going to be a "confrontation" of some sort involving Ron Carey, chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party, who attended the convention in Melrose.
In a telephone interview Monday morning, Heidgerken said he stood before the party faithful on Saturday in Glenwood and Melrose and explained why he thought the transportation bill was the best one his constituents could get.
"If I was going to be beat up, I wanted them to know I spent a lot of time on this bill, and it was right for rural Minnesota," he said.
Heidgerken, of Freeport, said it is always difficult to take on your governor, and he apologized to his conservative constituents who believe any tax increase is bad. Those individuals "are not all wrong," Heidgerken said, and he respects their opinion.
But after he'd had a chance to explain the bill, and express his concerns that an alternative bill backed by the Taxpayers League would result in rural Minnesotans paying for metro transit "for the rest of our lives," most of his constituents "were very satisfied," he said.
"Nearly everyone said 'we want you to represent our district,'" he said. "We're behind you. That's the message I got," Heidgerken said.
And rather than fireworks from Carey, Heidgerken said the party chairman "was pretty quiet" when he addressed the crowd and spoke of unity.
Carey, who spoke Monday afternoon in a telephone interview from his office in St. Paul, said he came to the meeting because he was curious about what people were saying and he wanted to "gauge the attitude" of Heidgerken's constituents.
While disappointed with Heidgerken's vote, Carey said he didn't come to tell people they should elect someone else, even though he's been getting phone calls from Republicans around the state saying he should "throw these people out of the party."
Carey said that's a decision that voters will need to make. "They're the ones Bud needs to be accountable to, not me."
Carey said he saw a mixed bag of responses to Heidgerken at the Melrose event, which was not an endorsing convention. Some were upset about a tax increase but others deferred to Heidgerken's judgment and decision.
Heidgerken said he was buoyed by the overall response from District 13A constituents. He said district residents told him they were confident he'd "make the best decision for us. ... That made me feel good."
The punishment handed down by Republican leaders against the six legislators, including threats the party won't help in their re-election campaign, won't affect Heidgerken. He said he's never taken money from the Republican Party for his campaigns.
Unlike some legislators, who Heidgerken said accept nearly $100,000 in party money for their individual campaigns, Heidgerken prefers to keep his campaign donations and his legislative decisions tied to "the folks back home."
Although he said he holds very close the principles of the Republican Party, including a pro-life stance, Heidgerken said he's "an independent thinker."
By not taking party money, he said, "They can't put the pressure on me like they can with other folks. And that's a key ingredient."
Carey said the political ramifications for the six House members will be known once the endorsing conventions are held. That will happen this week for three metro legislators in District 41 and District 48B.