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Ward now target of recall petition

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A second recall petition against a Crow Wing County lawmaker who voted in favor of gay marriage has been initiated. Rep. John Ward, DFL-Baxter, is the subject of a recall petition initiated by Doug Kern of rural Brainerd and Tony Bauer of Nisswa. Last week, Kern started a recall petition against Rep. Joe Radinovich, DFL-Crosby.

Kern said the Ward recall petition was delivered Monday to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office. The reason for the petition was similar to the Radinovich recall petition, Kern said. In both cases, he said, lawmakers voted against the wishes of their constituents, based on how their legislative districts voted the last fall’s balloting for a proposed constitutional amendment that would have banned gay marriage.

Asked if he thought Ward’s vote constituted malfeasance of nonfeasance, Kern said he’d let the courts decide that.

Ward said he did not think a recall was warranted but understood this was part of the democratic process. He said it was not the first vote he cast that was unpopular with some constituents.

“I don’t agree that based on one vote that I took, that I should be recalled for that vote,” he said. “I’ve taken thousands of votes.”

The Baxter lawmaker it was a social justice and equality issue and noted the bill contained restrictions ensuring religious freedom.

“The religious freedom (issue) works both ways,” he said.

“We passed this bill with some of the strictest religious restrictions. Some churches will not ever marry a same-sex couple. Other churches that want to should be able to. That’s what religious freedom is all about.”

Thirty-three legislators in the House (18 Republicans and 15 Democrats) voted against the way their districts voted on the gay marriage issue, Ward said.

“I respect the fact that people are able to use the democratic process for the purpose of what they think they have to do,” Ward said. “I don’t agree with it. I still will work hard to represent the district to the best of my ability.”

The lawmaker said his office received far more contacts from constituents who supported marriage equality than from those who opposed it.

“I know how people voted in November of 2012 but I, as a legislator, am also hearing people’s opinion going forward.”

He said many people have changed their mind since the election.

Kern said he resubmitted his paperwork on the Radinovich recall to meet requirements set by the secretary of state’s office. Those included that he have a handicapped disclosure statement; have 10 signatures on a page rather than 12; have his signatures dated; and have his document typed.

The proposed petition to recall Radinovich is being reviewed in the judicial system, a spokesman for the Minnesota Supreme Court said.

Kern, a deputy chair of the Crow Wing County Republican Party, said he was acting as an individual when he began the recall petition process. Kern was listed by the court as the primary designated representative for the proposed recall.

“Leaders of the (state Republican) party asked me not to do it,” Kern said. “I feel this is too important. Our religious liberty is at stake.” He said he believes churches will be subject to diversity training because Sunday school teachers such as himself are not protected in the legislation that passed in the House and Senate.

“We’re going to have discrimination lawsuits up the ying-yang once this is all in place,” Kern said.

Kern said he expected the court would act on the Radinovich recall petition in two or three days.

Bauer, who Kern said lives in Ward’s District 10A, declined to comment on proposed recall petition.

MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5860 or He may be followed at

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860