In Tuesday’s special election, Republicans held onto the Minnesota House seat and Democrats kept the Senate seat vacated when Representative Tony Cornish and Senator Dan Schoen resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment. In House District 23-B in south central Minnesota, Republican Jeremy Munson from Lake Crystal bested Democratic rival Melissa Wagner, 59-to-40 percent. House Speaker Kurt Daudt says, “The decisive win here, almost two-to-one for the Republican candidate, really says that people in that district didn’t come out and vote against Trump.”
In Senate District 54, Cottage Grove Democrat Karla Bigham beat Republican Denny McNamara by four points (51 to 47 percent). Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk says Democrats “won it against, I would argue, the strongest candidate the Republicans could have possibly put up.”
Senator-elect Karla Bigham says she’s “very excited and humbled” and predicts education funding and health care will be big topics in the upcoming legislative session. “Transportation is always an issue that has risen to the top of this district; clean water more recently,” she says, referring to concern that chemicals from a 3-M plant have contaminated water supplies.
Senate Republican Majority Leader Paul Gazelka says he’s disappointed in the results of the election. “I was hoping that we would win also because some of these things that cause disruption in the Senate make it difficult for us to do the people’s business,” says Gazelka, referring to a dispute about whether Republican Michelle Fischbach can keep her Senate seat while she’s lieutenant governor. Democrats, in at attempt to grab majority control of the Senate, will likely continue their court challenge.
Gazelka objects, “There’s been at least seven times that the president of the Senate has also been a lieutenant governor…. At this point, she still has the green light to do the duties that she believes are hers to do.” But Senate Democratic Minority Leader Tom Bakk contends since a 1972 constitutional amendment, lieutenant governors have “no function in the Senate. Is purely a position in the executive division of government, so it’s a different situation.”
Republican Michelle Fischbach has said if the courts rule she can’t continue serving in the Senate, she’ll resign as lieutenant governor and run for her old seat in a special election. That would be a tough race for Democrats to win, particularly in a Paynesville-area district that leans Republican. But Senate Minority Leader Bakk argues it’s winnable, with the right Democratic candidate: “Maybe a little bit like Congressman Collin Peterson, along that mold.” Bakk says one potential candidate he’s talking to fills that bill.
More in this interview with Senate Republican Majority Leader Paul Gazelka:
…and with Senate Democratic Minority Leader Tom Bakk: