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Senate Majority Leader designate Tom Bakk
by Tony Petrangelo
Dec 3, 2012, 7:00 AM

Marriage Equality in 2013: The In-between Senators

In the post The electoral implications of Marriage equality, I wrote the following:

Let’s assume that DFLers representing districts that voted against the amendment will likely vote for Marriage equality. And let’s also assume that Republicans representing districts that voted for the amendment will likely vote against equality.

If we assume these two things, than there are 18 Senators and 39 Representatives who could go either way. These are the in-betweeners.

In the Senate there are 29 DFLers who represent districts that voted against the amendment and it takes 34 votes in the Senate for a majority. That means five of the 18 in-betweeners in the Senate would need to decide in favor of equality.

In this post I will take a look at who exactly those 18 in-betweeners are and which are the five most likely to vote for equality.

First up, the 10 DFLers.

SD Senator N-Y D-R Margin Info
6 David Tomassoni -6% 43% 37% Voted Against 1308
27 Dan Sparks -19% 37% 18% Voted Against 1308
11 Tony Lourey -16% 29% 13% Author SF1523
4 Kent Eken -8% 4% -4% Voted Against 1308
5 Tom Saxhaug -10% 4% -6% Voted Against 1308
21 Matt Schmit -11% 5% -6% Freshman
24 Vicki Jensen -14% 5% -9% Freshman
1 LeRoy Stumpf -36% 21% -15% Voted For 1308
2 Rod Skoe -28% 10% -18% Voted Against 1308
17 Lyle Koenen -29% 11% -18% Voted For 1308

The first column of the above table is the Senate district number, the next is the name of the Senator who represents the district. The next three columns are percentages, the first is the difference in the No-Yes vote on the Marriage amendment. Then comes the difference in the DFL-GOP vote in that Senate district. And after that the difference of these two differences!

Essentially what this is telling you is how much of an electoral “margin” a Senator has between his vote share and that of the Amendment.

The last column is info about whether the Senator voted for or against the amendment in the legislature (or in the case of Tony Lourey, co-authored one of the amendment repeal bills) or if they are a freshman.

Two of the Senators at the bottom of the list, Lyle Koenen and LeRoy Stumpf, probably won’t be voting for Marriage equality. Not only did their districts overwhelmingly vote in favor of the amendment, they themselves voted for the amendment while it was still just a twinkle in the Republicans eyes.

And while Senator Rod Skoe voted against the amendment, he represents a district that supported it by a rather large margin above the support that he got himself.

Matt Schmit and Vicki Jensen will be freshmen, and both won their respective elections by five percent. They don’t face re-election again for another four years, but in both cases their districts voted for the amendment by a greater margin than they voted for for them. The same is true of Tom Saxhaug and Kent Eken, as they won re-election by five and four points respectively.

David Tomassoni is the Senator on this list who would be in the least amount of potential danger as he won re-election by 43% and his district only supported the amendment by a 6% margin. That’s a 37 point difference between his margin and the amendments.

Dan Sparks won by 37% for an 18 point difference and Tony Lourey (who was a co-author of one of the Senate DFLers amendment repeal bills, SF1523) won by 29% for a 13 point difference.

Those three DFLers Tomassoni, Lourey and Sparks represent the low hanging fruit, so to speak, in an effort to find those extra five votes.

Let’s look now at the Senate Republicans list.

SD Senator N-Y D-R Margin Info
48 David Hann 21% -3% 18% Author SF1307
39 Karin Housley 7% -1% 6% Freshman
14 John Pederson 8% -5% 3% Voted For 1308
56 Dan Hall 8% -8% 0% Author SF1308
38 Roger Chamberlain 5% -7% -2% Voted For 1308
34 Warren Limmer 6% -14% -8% Author SF1308
55 Eric Pratt 2% -10% -8% Freshman
33 David Osmek 9% -18% -9% Freshman

This list is much less promising. Three of the Senators on the list were co-authors of either the actual amendment bill, Warren Limmer and Dan Hall, or one of its competitors in the case of David Hann. And Hann is the Republican Senator who represents the district that voted against the amendment by the largest margin, meaning he, theoretically, should have been the most persuadable.

Karin Housley doesn’t mention the issue on her website and she won election by just a single point, far less than the margin that voted against the amendment in her district, so it’s possible that she’s persuadable. But I wouldn’t count on it.

When you actually look at the names on this list you see that while there are in fact Republican Senators who occupy districts that voted against the Marriage amendment, none of them are likely to be Republican Senators who actually vote for Marriage equality. For Marriage equality to pass the Senate, it will likely be up to the DFL to wrangle the votes.

If that’s the case than Tomassoni, Sparks and Lourey are probably the three easiest to get of the 18 listed above. After that you’re pretty much left with needing to get at least two of the quartet of Eken, Jensen, Saxhaug and Schmit.

This whole analysis is based around the assumption that DFLers who represent districts that voted against the amendment will themselves support Marriage equality. This may be a faulty assumption though. And if any DFLers who represent a district that voted against the amendment defect, it becomes that much harder to cobble together the 34 votes needed to pass legislation.

This analysis also assumes that DFL leadership would even want to proceed with a vote if they’re only going to get a bare majority. The situation in the Senate will be close and given who the swing votes will be, it will all come down to how hard the DFL leadership wants to push this.

But for Marriage equality to pass, it doesn’t just need to get through the Senate, it also needs to get through the House. And if getting through the Senate looks like it might be a challenge, well, let’s just say the Senate will be a cake walk compared to the House.

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