Republican state Sen. Branden Petersen of Andover said Monday on Twitter that he would not run for a second term in the Senate next year.
In his short time in the Senate, Petersen, who also served one term in the House, made an impression on legislative politics.
A Republican with a libertarian bent -- his personal email address begins with the word "liberty" -- Petersen posted his reasons for his votes publicly for a time, became the only Republican Senate member to vote to legalize same-sex marriage, was a vocal backer of medical marijuana and partnered with people from all over the political spectrum on privacy issues.
The youngest member of the Minnesota Senate, Petersen embraced social media and used it to share his views.
I first learned of this development Monday morning via Twitter.
After a year of thought, I'm announcing that I will not be seeking re-election to the Senate. Time for family and making a living. #mnleg— Branden Petersen (@Sen_B_Petersen) July 6, 2015
I have zero reason to doubt Petersen's stated motives given he and his lovely wife have three children all under the age of five. I imagine it's a difficult balancing act for most legislators. Sure, the actual legislative session may only run 3-4 months. However, when out of session, there's myriad constituent meetings as well fundraising and campaigning, so being a state legislator is pretty much a full time job while not exactly garnering an exorbitant salary.
The prevailing sentiment I've seen from both sides of the political aisle is a deep respect for Petersen as a legislator. Despite the fact he represented an overwhelmingly right-leaning senate district, Petersen was not known for political expediency, which at times rankled voters in his district. I recall a Sunday evening in February 2013 when Sen. Petersen faced some angry constituents after proactively crafting a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage. Since Minnesota was under all Democrat control, Petersen thought it best to engage the issue in order to ensure religious institutions were protected from having to violate their beliefs. Even though the MN Marriage Amendment (a measure looking to define marriage as strictly between a man and woman) was defeated by voters a few months earlier, the majority of voters in our senate district (approximately 52%) voted "yes" on said ballot measure. While some were definitely upset over Petersen defying the will of the district, there were also a fair number of folks who felt betrayed that they weren't informed of the Senator's intentions. Since Petersen (as a MN House member in 2011) voted to allow Minnesotans to decide the matter at the ballot box in November 2012, the assumption was he opposed gay marriage. As such, his actions in early 2013 looked to be an "about face." Petersen was given a vote of "no confidence" by our local senate district's exec committee in June 2013 (it was rescinded 7 months later).
Petersen was perhaps held in the highest regard by folks within the libertarian wing of the MN GOP. Whenever he posted a political view on social media, hordes of liberty loving people often showered his Facebook thread and Twitter feed with fawning accolades. For a group of folks who seem to detest the political process and oftentimes politicians themselves, there sure is a heckuva lot of "cult of personality" and utter delirium within the "liberty movement" that, at times, rivals the Barack Obama 2008 campaign. To be clear, I don't sense the adulation was something Petersen was inviting as much as it was just to share his unvarnished beliefs with constituents et al.
The next logical question is who will we look to endorse as the Republican candidate for 2016 (Hint: It ain't gonna be me)? Longtime GOP activist and blogger Andy Aplikowski cobbled together a post within 20 minutes of Petersen's announcement indicating he is considering a run. Given his work ethic, I can't think of many who could rival his tenacity on the campaign trail. I imagine more names will crop up within the next week or two.
With that, I wish Branden nothing but the best as he retreats into "civilian" life. My wife and I have been privileged to get to know he and his wife Jessica a little bit over the past few years. If nothing else, I'm hoping we can finally get together for that long overdue dinner we've been trying to schedule for a couple of years.