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Minn. No. 2 House Republican on ropes over vote for same-sex marriage

Sunday, August 3, 2014
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — As second-in-command for Minnesota House Republicans, Rep. Jenifer Loon made a big gamble when she broke with her party’s prevailing view on gay marriage.

Rep. Jenifer Loon (R), of Eden Prairie canvases her neighborhood as she prepares for the Republican primary in Eden Prairie, Minn. Wednesday, July 30, 2014. Loon faces challenger Shelia Kihne in the Republican primary election on August 12. Craig Lassig, AP

Rep. Jenifer Loon (R), of Eden Prairie canvases her neighborhood as she prepares for the Republican primary in Eden Prairie, Minn. Wednesday, July 30, 2014. Loon faces challenger Shelia Kihne in the Republican primary election on August 12.

Loon’s vote to make same-sex legal prompted her former campaign manager to try to take her seat, and Loon now faces a tough primary challenge to be decided in the Aug. 12 election.

Gay and lesbian couples have been free to marry in Minnesota for a year now, but the political reverberations haven’t quieted. Loon and three other GOP House members backed the right of same-sex couples to marry; one decided against re-election and another ended his campaign rather than face probable defeat at a party endorsing convention.

Some Democrats from districts where traditional marriage was the clear preference of 2012 voters could see their pro-gay marriage votes used against them this fall.

Sheila Kihne’s bid to unseat Loon has turned the Eden Prairie race into an expensive battle. Outside money is rushing in, some from groups that want the GOP to concentrate on fiscal issues and some from groups seeking to punish Loon for what they see as a family-values betrayal.

Loon’s status as deputy minority leader and a potential candidate for higher office raises the stakes.

Loon won the district two years ago with almost 60 percent of the vote. By about the same margin, voters rejected a proposal to ban gay marriage via the state constitution.

Loon had supported putting the ban on the ballot.

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