House DFLers get money from same sex marriage backers

In a year when Republicans need only seven seats to control the Minnesota House, a handful of vulnerable DFL lawmakers are benefiting from a network of out-of-state donors.

More than $55,000 in contributions from Florida to California have ended up in the coffers of at least six Democrats who are facing difficult re-elections this year.

Those six DFLers have something else in common: they voted in favor of same-sex marriage, in some cases even when the idea wasn’t all that popular with their constituents.

Much of the outside cash is coming from a network of wealthy donors organized by Gill Action, a national group based in Colorado that connects people with money to give to politicians who have supported LGBT issues.

Gill Action is taking its cues from local organizations that worked to defeat a 2012 constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage and to support same-sex marriage legalization 2014.

Rep. Will Morgan, DFL- Burnsville, is among the beneficiaries of the Gill Action network, though he said he’s never met any of the group’s donors. This year, $9,750 of the $25,500 he’s raised came from people like tech executive John Barabino in Connecticut and New York philanthropist Jon Stryker.

Morgan won his district in 2012 by .8 percent, and the donations are designed to help him compete against GOP candidate Roz Peterson, who has raised about as much as Morgan.

But Morgan added he’s getting a lot of in-state backing as well.

“I feel really good about the local support I’m getting. My supporters don’t have a lot money, but they’re stepping up,” Morgan said.

Other candidates who have raised several thousand from Gill Action donors include Reps. Tim Faust of Hinckley, Jay McNamar of Elbow Lake, Yvonne Selcer of Minnetonka, Shannon Savick of Wells, and Roger Erickson of Baudette. In some cases, these candidates are in much better shape financially than their DFL peers or their opponents as a result of those donations.

Rep. Joe Radinovich, DFL- Crosby, won his district by 1.48 percent in 2011, and is considered a top GOP target this fall partly because of his support for same-sex marriage.

Last year, Gill Action donors sent Radinovich about $4,000. This year, he said he hasn’t received any major contributions from the network.

Still, Radinovich said he’s not concerned, given how much cash his campaign has raised over the last two years.

“I feel confident,” he said. “Our goal is to raise somewhere around $100,000.”