Opinion: Let the full range of voters decide FitzSimmons’ fate

I love the purity of precinct caucuses. People with little or no experience in political activism can come and have a voice. More seasoned political activists come alongside them to help them learn the process.

There are straw polls, and everyone gets a vote. There are resolutions, and everyone gets a chance to make them. Those attend elect and often become delegates. There’s a sense of party unity, and at the same time no one tries to trample on the ideas of others looking to make a difference in their world.

It reminds people of the fact that it’s ultimately the people who pick our leaders at the polls in November. What a wonderful thing.

Unfortunately, endorsing conventions all too often spoil that sense of pride and wonderment for our political process. Whereas precinct caucuses represent the beginning of the political process viewed as the greatest in the world, endorsing conventions represent the beginning of politics that people talk about with increasing disgust as the elections near and political advertisements abound.

Endorsing conventions are where the most rabid of political activists show their teeth. They flex their muscles. They’re convinced they know what’s best for their district, their state and their nation. Opposing ideas, beliefs and strategies of even their own party faithful are not welcome.

The latest example is the lynching of Rep. David FitzSimmons, an Albertville lawmaker who cast one of three Republican votes in the Minnesota House of Representatives to legalize same-sex marriage. The former Republican chair of Wright County and former chair of the 6th Congressional District and former campaign manager for Tom Emmer’s gubernatorial run has been essentially ousted by the political elite.

His fate was sealed perhaps the first time he spoke on the Minnesota House floor. It was during the debate on the marriage equality bill on May 9, 2013. He offered an amendment to make same-sex marriage only apply to civil marriage. His amendment was accepted for debate, but ultimately defeated 22-111.

When the votes on the full bill came, he was one of a handful of Republicans who voted for the it, which did pass and become law. His critics have been fierce. He found himself in the minority at the Feb. 22 convention, and he surrendered. Republicans endorsed his opponent, Eric Lucero, who opposes same-sex marriage. FitzSimmons has said he does not plan to run in the primary.

I say he should.

He could run with the same courage he used to speak on the issue on the House floor, and he could give Republicans across the district — not just activists — a chance to choose who they want on the November ballot.

I’m not lobbying for or against gay marriage. I am saying let people decide FitzSimmons’ political fate. See how he stacks up against Lucero in front of everybody, because unlike political activists, voters are not cut from one GOP or DFL cookie cutter. Quite frankly, it could do more to help the GOP than its delegates realize.

To close, I offer up some of FitzSimmons’ words on that fateful day he chose to address his colleagues on the House floor for the first time.

“I always appreciate anyone’s efforts to do something that they believe is increasing our liberties and increasing our freedoms. And I know that everyone in here has very different ideas of what that is.  Sometimes I wish that more people agreed with mine. …

“We all have different ideas, but I think it’s important for all of us to make sure when we’re expanding someone else’s liberty or protecting someone’s freedom or liberty that we’re making sure that to our best ability that this body is watching out, that it doesn’t infringe on someone else’s freedom and liberty.”

Of course, the other side of the coin is to look out for your interests and your interests alone. — Jim Boyle editor