It’s no secret that Republicans have used anti-gay ballot initiatives as a cynical means of getting conservatives to the polls on Election Day. Karl Rove infamously employed this strategy in 2004, with great results: all 11 states with marriage discrimination amendments on the ballot that year passed them overwhelmingly, and they drew out rural and suburban conservatives in droves,  providing what the New York Times called “crucial assistance” to Republican candidates. Seven more states followed suit in 2006, including my home state of Wisconsin, where the conservative turnout surge was supposed to have helped Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Green unseat Democratic incumbent Jim Doyle. (The amendment passed, but Doyle easily won re-election.)

Fast forward to 2012. Of the four states where marriage-related ballot initiatives will go before the voters next month, only in Minnesota are voters being asked to consider a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. (Voters in Maine will decide whether to reinstate a marriage equality law that was overturned in 2009; in Maryland and Washington, voters will choose whether to allow legislatively-enacted marriage equality laws to go into effect.) And last night, Michael Brodkorb — a former Republican activist and party leader in Minnesota who was one of the chief architects of that state’s proposed marriage amendment — pulled back the curtain on the proponents’ strategy, admitting that it was placed on the ballot not to “protect marriage,” as they claim, but to get conservatives (who might otherwise be tempted to stay home due to the non-competitive nature of incumbent Democrat Amy Klobuchar’s U.S. Senate race) “off the couch and into the voting room” next month. CBS Minnesota reports:

“It provided a turnout opportunity for Republicans,” he said.

Brodkorb was former Deputy Chairman of the State Republican Party and top Senate staffer, and says GOP Senators knew a driving force behind the gay marriage amendment wasn’t morality. It was political reality.

Top GOP leaders thought they couldn’t beat incumbent Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, and Republicans would stay home.

“The belief was, the United States senate race was not going to be close, and that Republicans needed and social conservatives needed a reason to get to the polls in November,” he said.

Brodkorb (left) was at the center of a sex scandal that broke in late 2011 that resulted in him admitting to an illicit affair with (married) Republican Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch. Koch resigned her position and Brodkorb lost his job. According to the CBS Minnesota article, Brodkorb is now taking legal action for what he alleges was an improper firing.

Despite his role in getting Minnesota’s marriage discrimination amendment on the 2012 ballot, Brodkorb says he’ll be voting “no” on the measure next month. And he has an interesting prediction about the amendment’s prospects:

Ironically, he now says [using same-sex marriage to draw conservatives to the polls is] a strategy that could backfire.

Opposition to the amendment is strong in the Twin Cities suburbs, and it could cause some Republican state Senators to lose.

Considering that the Minnesota Republican Party apparently has no compunction about using LGBT people’s lives and families for cynical political purposes, I can only hope.


Watch Brodkorb’s interview with CBS Minnesota’s WCCO — click here.