Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers announced today that he’s backing Cindy Pugh over Rep. Steve Smith, R-Mound, in the August 14 primary. On his Facebook page, Zellers said he was backing Pugh because she “will represent the conservative values of the district.”
“On important issues like education, government reform and protecting child care providers from forced unionization, I know where Cindy stands. She stands with students, with taxpayers and with families. She isn’t someone who is going to let a special interest push her around.”
“Cindy is a true conservative, and she’s proven it through her years working on behalf of conservatives as a party and local volunteer. She is endorsed by the Republican Party, and is going to stand up for what is right – limited government, lower taxes and economic freedom. A vote for Cindy is a vote for the principles that make us conservative.”
Zellers’ announcement is rare example of a leader backing a challenger over a member of his own caucus. Smith is also the longest serving Republican on the House. He was elected in 1990.
Smith has not followed GOP leadership on some issues. He voted against the same-sex marriage amendment in 2011. The Legislature ultimately passed the amendment and put it on the 2012 ballot.
Zellers also ousted Smith as chair of the House Judiciary and Policy Committee in 2011. The speaker said at the time that the move was “due to personal reasons.”
Smith filed to run again on the last day of filings. Despite losing his party’s endorsement to Pugh, Smith said he wanted to “continue to do good work at the Capitol.”
“I think I’ve served well for 22 years, and I want to continue,” Smith told MPR News last month.
Pugh highlighted the endorsement on her Facebook page.
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is so refreshing to see that people all over the state recognize that a fresh voice is needed for the good people of 33B.”
The legislative district includes Mound, Excelsior, Deephaven and other communities around Lake Minnetonka.