Doepke campaign says last minute mailer distorts her position

Just before the primary election, voters in Senate District 33 got more mailers from an outside group.

This week, Americans for Prosperity Minnesota (AFP-MN) sent out fliers targeting Rep. Connie Doepke, R-Orono, that say she stands with President Barack Obama on health care.

“Obamacare is bad medicine,” the mailer states. “Yet Representative Connie Doepke refused to help fight it.”

It’s not the first time the SD 33 primary race between Doepke and GOP-endorsed David Osmek to replace retiring state Sen. Gen Olson has attracted outside attention. Last month, the Freedom Club, a conservative group linked to GOP donor Robert Cummins, funded mailers targeting Doepke on her spending record.

The Doepke-Osmek battle to win a spot on this year’s ballot is turning out to be one of the most contested races of this year’s primary election. It’s among several contests that pit an incumbent Republican against a challenger who leans further to the right.

Doepke, who has Olson’s endorsement, said those ads weren’t true, and she’s saying the same about the AFP-MN mailer, said her spokesman Jonathan Aanestad.

The mailer concerns an amicus brief in support of a suit the state of Florida filed challenging the health care law. It was signed by 68 Minnesota House members, including Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Majority Leader Matt Dean, and 23 members of the state Senate.

“[Doepke] was never offered it, she didn’t know anything about it,” said Aanestad. “It’s hard to sign something that’s not offered.”

Doepke “absolutely in opposition to [the law] from the very beginning,” Aanestad added.

AFP-MN director John Cooney said his group hasn’t polled or seen any polling that suggests Doepke is vulnerable in this race.

“Anytime there is heightened interest within a community relative to the actions of policymakers, this is an opportunity for AFP to bring issues to the forefront of discussions amongst neighbors, friends and co-workers,” Cooney wrote in an e-mail. “We want people to talk about taxes, regulations and the health care overhaul. Therein lies our interest in 33.”

AFP-MN is the local branch of the conservative national group backed by major Republican donors Charles and David Koch. The group supports small government and lower taxes, and in Minnesota, it has sounded off about the health care law before.

Earlier this year, AFP-MN sent out mailers opposing incumbent state house Republicans for their votes on the Vikings Stadium.

For her part, Doepke has had to clarify her own list of endorsements. After including 3rd Congressional District Rep. Erik Paulsen on a campaign mailer, Paulsen sent out a statement reiterating his endorsement of Osmek.

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