The Unmaking of a Pawlenty Voter

For Ron Peterson, the veteran boxing promoter from Mounds View, no word carries more sting than "liberal." He ascribes most of the world's ills to liberals. When he wants to convey disgust and garden variety invective fails him, he will usually deploy some variation of the L word.

Given this outlook, it's no surprise that Peterson professes to have never cast a vote for a Democrat. Similarly, it's hardly shocking that he has long been a robust supporter of Governor Tim Pawlenty. "He always seemed like a stand up guy," Peterson says. "I know he cut back on a lot of that welfare bullshit."

But a couple of weeks ago, Peterson ripped the Pawlenty for Governor bumper sticker from his vehicle. Then he fired off an email to the governor's office in which he vowed to never again vote for Pawlenty. Then he called City Pages to announce these developments.

At first blush, the loss of support from such a red-blooded, flag waver would seem to be a bad omen for the sitting governor. After all, as a conservative, religious, white, middle-aged, male suburbanite, Peterson sits pretty much at the center of the GOP base. If T-Paw can't hold on to guys like him, what chance does he have?

Actually, probably a pretty good one.

Peterson's sudden disgust with Pawlenty, it turns out, has nothing to do with the governor's tax policies, support for the war or other hot button issues. He soured on the governor for a much more parochial reason: the appointment of Scott LeDoux to serve as director of the newly reconstituted Minnesota Boxing Commission.

Peterson's grudge against LeDoux goes back to the 70s, when Peterson managed and promoted LeDoux, then a young heavyweight prospect. Relations between the two men first soured when LeDoux defected to a new manager. They worsened after LeDoux's retirement and subsequent appointment to the old Minnesota Boxing Commission, where he and Peterson were often at loggerheads. In Peterson's view, LeDoux simply meddled too much with the match-making.

With plans to create a new state boxing commission were first announced, Peterson wanted a role in the selection of the director. He feared LeDoux was the front runner and figured it was his right as a longtime fixture on the boxing scene to be heard. He fired off an estimated 15 emails, he says, to no avail. It stung. "I've promoted more shows, worked with more fighters, been to more places, than all the rest of those mother fuckers put together. All of them," Peterson says. "And they [the Pawlenty administration] don't even have the courtesy to give me a call for my input?".

As a political bellwether, of course, Peterson's defection from the Pawlenty fold doesn't count for much. But it does reinforce one old truism of the campaign game: In the end, all politics is personal.