Crow Wing County Republican Chairman Dale Walz, writing on behalf of his executive board, expressed "disappointment and disapproval" of Sen. Paul Koering's voting record in an April 19 letter to the Republican lawmaker, it was learned Monday.
A copy of the letter also was sent to Ron Carey, Minnesota Republican Party chairman.
Koering fended off a 2006 primary challenge after winning GOP endorsement in his successful bid for a second term in the state Senate but has faced persistent criticism from within his party since announcing he was gay in 2005.
In his correspondence, Walz said the county's Republican executive committee approved the message.
Sen. Paul Koering
"I guess I'm a little surprised by the letter," Koering said from the state Capitol Monday. "You know, I'm voting my district and I'm voting for nursing home funding and voting for the needs of my district and I guess some people in the Republican Party want me to come down here and vote no on everything."
In his letter, Walz said the executive board met to discuss legislation that had been authored by and certain votes that been cast by Koering. The bills included Senate File 0002 - Universal Health Care, S.F. 1369 - Domestic Partner Health Benefits, S.F. 1398 - Giving Domestic Partners Next of Kin Designation and various legislation "all dealing with expanding and/or additional appropriations for government-run health care programs."
Walz's letter continued, "The executive board believes co-authorship of these DFL bills and/or favorable votes on these DFL bills are in direct contradiction to key elements of the Republican Party of Minnesota platform.
"The purpose of this letter is to express our disappointment and disapproval of these actions. The executive board approved this letter."
Neither Walz, Deputy Crow Wing County Chair Tenlee Lund nor Carey returned messages Monday.
Koering, who said the criticism comes from only a handful of Republicans, said he would not be an obstructionist and would continue to work with other legislators.
"I need to get things done for my district," he said.
He said he was endorsed by 60 percent of the Republicans at the 2006 endorsing convention, a margin he characterized as a landslide in politics. He said he was only two votes shy of winning endorsement on the first ballot and never lost ground in any of the seven ballots that were conducted.
"My question is every time I sway off the path and vote the wrong way, am I going to be denounced?" he asked. "I think if you look at my record over the past five years, I think I've done a pretty good job. It makes it difficult when you don't have your team on your side."
Koering said he believed some of the legislation his critics cited was part of the Health and Human Services bill he voted for this session. That bill was vetoed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Koering was one of four Republicans to support the bill.
The Republican senator was praised for his work on the Health and Human Services budget conference report in Sunday's letter to the editor by Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis. Berglin is the co-chair of that committee. She said his efforts helped fund nursing homes above the governor's request and also increased money for food shelves.
Walz, a former District 12A Republican representative, was elected to the Legislature in 2000. In May of 2004 he announced he wouldn't run for another term. He was elected county chair last month. Also elected to party posts at that time were Lund, Dolly Zitur, secretary; and Alvina Kennedy, treasurer.
Koering said he'd continue to represent all of the district, Democratic, independent and Republican.
"I'm trying to look out for the best interests of all the people," he said.
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