The story behind Minnesota Rep. Gene Pelowski’s $1,600 office chair

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Pelowski looks like he's smiling because he just got some bipartisan praise for an education bill in this photo from 2013, but he's actually grimacing in pain from sitting in this "killer" chair. Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

Rep. Gene Pelowski (DFL-Winona) used about $1,600 in campaign cash to buy a chair for his office.

The Star Tribune noted in passing that the purchase came in September, just before the DFL lost the majority in both chambers of the legislature.

“A few Capitol wags were sending each other photos of the Iron Throne from ‘Game of Thrones,’” the Strib’s J. Patrick Coolican quipped. “Hope it’s comfortable, although life in the minority caucus isn’t very stressful.”

Pelowski settled the speculation by sending City Pages a photo of his fancy new chair. Turns not it’s not something likely to motivate war across the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, but it is one of a kind, and something that a history geek like Pelowski felt he had to have.

A history teacher at Winona Senior High for 37 years who has kept a daily journal of his legislative career since 1987, Pelowski has recently been giving presentations on the Civil War paintings in the Governor’s Office, as well as the Capitol restoration.

He learned that when the place was getting outfitted with new chairs, two prototypes were made. One was eventually chosen for the House floor. The other was three inches wider to accommodate larger legislators.

The slightly wider chair wouldn’t have fit the space 134 times over, so only one was ever made. Pelowski had the Sergeant-at-Arms track down this hand-carved, solid wood Cass Gilbert replica at the Furniture Maker warehouse where it was stored. He decided to buy it, and it was delivered with the rest of the new chairs.

Nowadays, Pelowski likes to have his constituents sit in that chair when they visit.

“They get the biggest kick out of sitting in it,” Pelowski says. “The chairs we had before were killers. They not only killed your back, but they also tipped over on a regular basis.”

Pelowski won 63 percent of his district in the last election. There aren’t many rules on spending leftover campaign funds, as long as they won’t use the money on groceries, manicures, or anything else that’s totally personal.  

And that, apparently, doesn't include really expensive chairs. 

 


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