ST. PAUL (AP) -- Supporters of Rep. Arlon Lindner don't understand why people get so upset at his comments.
The words "anti-gay" and "racist" were used to describe remarks the Republican made on the House floor last month. Because of those remarks, a House Ethics Committee was scheduled to begin hearings Monday on whether Lindner brought disrepute to the body.
But Lindner isn't without his supporters -- people who have backed him through six election campaigns.
Linda Marquardt, a friend, says she knows Lindner as a "kindhearted" man who volunteers at the local nursery Sundays with his wife, Shirlee. She knows him as the guy who rides his Big Dog motorcycle to Kansas to visit his daughter, and as the guy who trains German shepherds at the couple's home business.
"People in the community like him," she said. "He doesn't have a bigoted bone in his body. I think he's an easier target because he's undaunted and he's got that Southern accent that people make light of."
Another friend, Toni Hohenstein, sees Lindner as a "godly man who speaks from convictions, not someone who is mean or malicious."
Monday's ethics hearing is the result of a complaint House DFLers filed over comments the Corcoran Republican made questioning whether gays and lesbians were persecuted in the Nazi Holocaust.
He's also under fire for suggesting that his bill to reduce human rights protections would combat AIDS and keep the United States from becoming "another African continent."
The ethics committee will determine whether he should be sanctioned for the remarks.
It's not the first time Lindner has upset people with his comments.
During a campaign debate in 2000, Lindner boasted about stopping a bill that would help people with mental illness get worker's compensation, according to his opponent, Cheryl Johnson.
"It doesn't appear his experiences have made him sympathetic to people who need help," she said.
Nan Coreliss, a former real estate agent, said Lindner's impoverished background appears to have convinced him that everyone can "pull themselves up by their own bootstraps."
"I've sat in his office while he's gone on these rants about people," Coreliss said. "He told me that anybody who needs affordable housing is either a drunk, a criminal or immoral. Everything is eventually cloaked in sexual issues. He's insidious."
Steve Boynton ran against Lindner in 1994 and recalls a dirty campaign. "He's friendly enough, and polite," Boynton said. "But there's an ugly side to Arlon, a very vengeful and hateful side that comes out."
In an email sent to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Lindner wrote: "The two churches I have attended over the past 10 years are experiencing windows of autos being broken out on Sundays, and we are receiving vulgar phone calls, e-mails and one threatening letter."
Yet, Lindner has survived in politics thanks to the continued support of his largely conservative, west-metro district.
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