State Sen. Branden Petersen, R-Andover, announced today that he’s not running for re-election in 2016, ending the career of a lawmaker who wasn’t afraid to buck his own party on controversial issues — including same-sex marriage.
Petersen served one term in the Minnesota Senate and one term in the Minnesota House. He said he’s making his decision because the time required to serve in the Legislature has become too much. He said he wants to spend more time with his wife, Jessica, and their three children.
“I’m really just looking forward to the time where I can focus on one thing at work and focus on my family at home,” Petersen said. “The Legislature has a way of consuming you 24 hours a day and it will be nice not to have that.”
Petersen has been a champion of pushing issues that ruffled some feathers at the Capitol, including requiring police to disclose use of surveillance technology to the public.
He was also the only Republican in the Minnesota Senate to co-author and support a bill in 2013 that legalized same-sex marriage in Minnesota.
Petersen has been criticized by some religious conservative groups for that vote. He said he was expecting a challenge for the Republican Party endorsement but was confident he would prevail. But he said he considered the time it would take to win the endorsement when he decided to step aside.
“It was a factor in the sense that my campaign was going to be very, very time consuming and playing into my desire to spend more time with my family and just overall be more available,” he said.
Petersen also said he didn’t expect the Legislature would support many of the changes to data privacy laws that he was pushing at the Legislature. He blamed that on the lack of individual autonomy by legislators. He said there was too much pressure by caucus leaders in both parties to support the position of the entire group.
“There is an overwhelming, almost unstoppable force that puts legislators in a spot where they almost always comply with the group or caucus position,” he said.
Petersen said he plans to continue in his job selling cars at an Elk River, Minn., car dealership.
He’s the third Republican in the Minnesota Senate to announce they’re not running for re-election. Julianne Ortman of Chanhassen and Dave Brown of Becker are also not running again.