Incumbents in the Legislature continue musical chairs as a result of the new map

Incumbent lawmakers in the Minnesota House and Senate are starting to make concrete decisions about their political futures, and many of those decisions could impact party control of the Minnesota Senate.

Two incumbents paired in the same Minnesota Senate District have decided to run against each other.

Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, and Sen. Mary Jo McGuire, DFL-Falcon Heights, both announced today that they are running for re-election. The two were hoping to avoid an endorsement battle, but that’s not going to happen. The new district, which includes St. Paul, Roseville, Lauderdale and Falcon Heights, is split nearly halfway between Marty’s current district and McGuire’s current district.

“It’s a tough one,” McGuire said. “Because sometimes with redistricting you say ‘Who got moved into who’s district?’ but it’s both of our districts.”

McGuire wouldn’t commit to abiding by the DFL endorsement. Marty said he would. Marty said he’ll emphasize his record of standing up to interest groups when he speaks with voters.

“It’s a question of not just being there but standing up to the most powerful interests,” Marty said. “It doesn’t matter what the group is, I’ve been willing to stick my neck out.”

State Sen. Ken Kelash, DFL-Minneapolis, announced today that he will move into Senate District 50 rather than have an endorsement fight with Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis. The two were paired this week after a court appointed panel released the state’s new political boundaries. Kelash said today that he’s in the process of hiring a real estate agent to help him move into the district that includes Richfield and Bloomington. He said SD50 includes more than half of the district he currently represents.

“I know the district well, and I think I can continue serving there,” Kelash said. “I think I’ll give voters a chance to see if they want to keep me there for awhile.”

Kelash said he has spoken with Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, about her intentions but decided not to wait for her to make up her mind about running there. Lenczewski has reportedly been interested in running for the seat. She hasn’t returned calls to discuss her decision. Update: Bloomington School Board Chair Melissa Halvorson Wiklund announced that she’s running for the seat. She’s seeking the DFL endorsement.

Meanwhile, Rep. Connie Doepke, R-Orono, announced that she’s going to run for an open Senate seat that’s being vacated by Sen. Gen Olson, R-Minnetrista. Doepke says the district includes many of the areas that she represented during her time in the Minnesota House and as a member of the Wayzata School Board. She said she has the experience needed to represent the district. She said she sits on the House Taxes Committee, was a member of the school board, was endorsed by Conservation Minnesota and is a member of the Twin West Chamber of Commerce.

“Business, taxes and the environment are the three key things in that district that are important to may folks,” Doepke said. “And I’ve got it all.”

Rep. Steve Smith, R-Mound, has also reportedly expressed interest in running for the seat. I wasn’t able to speak with him about his decision.

Rep. Bruce Anderson, R-Buffalo, also announced today that he’s running in an open Senate seat in the northwest suburbs and exurbs. The new district includes Buffalo, Rockford, Delano, Monticello and Annandale.

“It has been an honor to serve Wright County in the Minnesota House,” Anderson said in a statement. “I will bring that same principled voice to the Minnesota Senate.”

Rep. Kent Eken decided that he’s going to run a Senate seat that’s being vacated by Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, instead of running for re-election in the Minnesota House. Eken was paired with Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth. Eken said that he’ll continue to stress issues like agriculture, jobs and property taxes as he campaigns. He said he’ll just have to campaign in twice the area.

“In no way do I see this as a slam dunk,” Eken said. This is a district that you’re going to have to work hard in to win in.”

Eken and Marquart announced earlier this week that they would not run against each other. Marquart said he’s running for the House seat.

Rep. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, said he’s also running for an open Senate seat in western Minnesota. Westrom said he considers the senate run as a new opportunity.

“This district is a big part of western Minnesota which I’m in the center of,” Westrom said. “There are eight counties in this district. There are 87 in the state so this district is about 10 percent of the state.”

Scott Dutcher, a member of the Republican Party of Minnesota’s executive committee, announced that he’s running for the seat being vacated by Westrom.

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