Sweep puts Republicans back in charge of state seats

by John Gessner, Erin Johnson, Aaron Vehling and Andrew Miller
Thisweek Newspapers

Burnsville and Eagan state legislative seats turned Republican red again Tuesday, in a sweep reminiscent of the DFL blue that overtook the cities in 2006.

Voters returned the cities’ legislative districts to the party that had traditionally held most of them before the ’06 Democratic insurgence that solidified DFL control of the Senate and handed the party control of the House of Representatives.

Now both chambers are in Republican hands, with help from local candidates.

Members of the DFL Class of 2006 who fell Tuesday are District 38 Sen. Jim Carlson of Eagan, District 40 Sen. John Doll of Burnsville, District 38A Rep. Sandra Masin of Eagan and District 40A Rep. Will Morgan of Burnsville. Also defeated was District 38B Rep. Mike Obermueller, an Eagan DFLer elected in 2008.

They’ll be replaced by Republicans Ted Daley of Eagan in Senate District 38, Dan Hall of Burnsville in Senate District 40, Diane Anderson of Eagan in House District 38A, Doug Wardlow of Eagan in House District 38B and Pam Myhra of Burnsville in House District 40A.

Senate District 38

CPA and military veteran Ted Daley unseated incumbent senator Jim Carlson in Senate District 38 in Eagan and eastern Burnsville.

Daley comes in as part of the Republican wave that not only swept out the south metro DFLers but ushered in a GOP state senate majority for the first time in 38 years.

“It’s a great day to be alive,” Daley said in a phone interview Wednesday. “It’s quite an honor to be part of this historic freshman class.”

Daley said the election results indicate that Minnesotans “want government to live within its means just like hard-working families have to.”

Daley commended his opponent.

“It was a spirited contest,” Daley said, “and I thank Senator Carlson for his great service.”

Carlson, a retired engineer who was elected as part of a DFL wave in 2006, said on Wednesday morning that “it is no time for sour grapes.”

“It’s going to be a very big challenge (for the Legislature) to deal with what has to be dealt with and with the promises that have been made.”

He said he is still concerned with the same things the day after the election as he was the day before.

“We have to somehow invest in our people and our infrastructure,” Carlson said. “If we don’t, the Minnesota that we knew will be something of history.”

The state Republican Party targeted seats in both the state House and Senate that were perceived as vulnerable.

In the south metro, which leans conservative, this was evident in the campaigns, Carlson said.

“They spent a lot of money marketing their ideas,” he said. “This demonstrates that there was money coming in from certain groups and ideologies.”

Daley said that, regardless, voters elect people and not parties.

“You’ve got to listen to the people,” he said. “I’ll listen to them and do my best to represent them.”

Neither Daley nor Carlson saw the GOP taking the Senate, though.

“We thought that maybe there was a small chance,” Carlson said, “but we never thought it would be this bad.”

Carlson was never over-confident about his own race, though, he said.

Daley agreed with the surprise factor.

“I don’t think anyone saw this coming,” he said. Surely, “it never crossed my mind.”

Looking to next year, Daley said he looks forward to working with legislative colleagues and with the governor—whoever that will be, because at press time Dayton was leading by a slim margin but that race will end up in a recount.

“It’s a time for leadership,” Daley said of the tough road ahead financially for Minnesota. “We’ll need innovative solutions.”

House District 38A

Republican challenger Diane Anderson defeated incumbent DFLer Sandra Masin by a vote of 7,606 to 6,829 to win the District 38A seat, which includes parts of Eagan and Burnsville.

Anderson, a small-business owner, had previously challenged Masin in 2008 but was unsuccessful. This year, she said, her message resonated with district voters more than her opponent’s.

“The number one issue for most people was the economy and jobs,” she said. “The increase in government spending has been out of control at both the state and federal level.”

Anderson said 38A was a Republican seat for years until the DFL sweep of 2006 that clinched the seat for Masin, who was re-elected when President Obama was elected in 2008.

“People realize they shouldn’t have voted for Obama and that they support the issues that I stand for,” Anderson said. “I really think our hard work of door knocking and meeting the people of the district paid off.”

Masin said she’s still trying to sort out what caused the tide to turn against incumbents Tuesday.

She said she definitely felt a lack of voter confidence this year compared with 2006 and 2008. And while people are upset about the state of the economy, statistics show it is already starting to bounce back, she said.

“There were enough signs to show the economy was recovering. So is it a matter of people just selecting what they’re believing? I don’t know,” she said. “People wanted change, and change was coming. If that’s what they really wanted over the last couple of years, how do you account for what happened Tuesday?”

Masin said she felt the amount of negative literature distributed by her opponent made it hard to get the message out about “a lot of good stuff that’s happened.”

“The amount of money and literature that went into this race was huge,” she said. “Whatever people say about negative advertising, it works.”

House District 38B

Republican Doug Wardlow defeated DFL incumbent Mike Obermueller to win the District 38B seat, which was previously held by Wardlow’s father, Lynn.

Wardlow received 8,323 votes to Obermueller’s 7,680 votes.

Lynn Wardlow lost the seat in 2008 to Obermueller when another national sweep ousted numerous Republicans.

But Doug Wardlow, an attorney, said he doesn’t think he’s riding into office on a national wave.

“This is not riding a tide, but rather I believe voters have demanded that state government trust the people of Minnesota to plan their futures and care for themselves,” he said. “People are just tired of the government trying to solve all their problems.”

He said he believes his message of limited government – one that creates a safety net and provides for roads and schools – resonated across the district.

Even though he won by only 643 votes, Wardlow said, “I feel it’s a clear mandate to enact the people’s will.”

Obermueller said Wardlow is a hard worker who cares deeply about Eagan and Minnesota, and he ran a great campaign.

But unlike Wardlow, he believes the district followed the national trend of booting Democrats out of office.

“I do feel it was national frustrations that played themselves out here in the district,” he said.

He said he doesn’t necessarily think that’s unfair – Republicans worked hard down here, he said, and voters have made it clear in which direction they want to go. But it’s a “bummer” for him because he would have loved to keep serving the people of Eagan, he said.

“Now (Wardlow) will have to face the budget challenge I thought I’d be facing, and it’s going to be just as hard for him. But I think he’s up to the challenge,” he said. “I wish him and his family the best. They’re about to begin an amazing journey in public service and I know they’ll make us proud.”

Senate District 40

Republican Dan Hall unseated DFL incumbent John Doll in Senate District 40, which contains the largest portion of Burnsville among the city’s three Senate districts.

Hall, who won 53 percent of the vote, said he took a national group’s pledge during the campaign to not vote for tax increases as the state addresses an estimated $5.8 billion deficit.

“We have been overtaxed for years,” said Hall, a 19-year Burnsville resident, Burnsville police chaplain and CEO of Midwest Chaplains, which trains and certifies community chaplains. “The people are finally getting to the point where they said, ‘Enough is enough.’ It’s learning how to work together and agree that the answer is not taxes.”

A lay pastor at River Valley Church in Apple Valley and a chaplain at the state Capitol, Hall said he’s been involved in ministries for 30 years.

But most folks on the campaign trail didn’t want to talk about social issues, he said.

“If they did, they’d want to know if you’re pro-life or not,” said Hall, 58. “That’s no question in my case. I’ve always been pro-life, and I expect that I always will be.”

Hall said a flyer mailed to district households by the DFL Party suggesting that he, a minister, is indifferent to the poor may have backfired some on the DFL candidate. Doll had nothing to do with the mailing.

“I don’t think it hurt me, at least,” said Hall, who said his faith calls upon him to help the needy and vulnerable. “The question is, is it the place of the government to do that, and if so, how much?”

Doll, 49, said he’s helped bring jobs to Burnsville by successfully sponsoring measures to aid the expansion of Goodrich Sensors and Integrated Systems and enable tax-increment financing in Burnsville’s Minnesota River Quadrant.

“Even the Chamber of Commerce was appreciative of the results I was bringing to the city,” Doll said.

As a Democrat on traditionally Republican turf, Doll said he was “adamant that tax increases were not, by any means, the first, second or third choice” for balancing the budget.

Doll, who voted for the DFL’s proposed $1 billion tax increase on high-income earners and alcohol in 2009, said he also voted for more than $3 billion in cuts in the last biennium. He also voted to increase the gasoline tax.

“I go away knowing I can sleep well at night because I did the job I promised I would do and I think most people wanted me to do,” Doll said.

House District 40A

Republican Pam Myhra, who unseated DFL incumbent Will Morgan in House District 40A by 50.2 percent to 46.2 percent, said she will have three main priorities at the Capitol:

Keeping spending sensible, promoting job growth and protecting family incomes.

“I am a social conservative. I am pro-life,” said Myhra, 53. “But my focus is going to be on those three priorities that, literally, I heard at just about every single door.”

The 32-year Burnsville resident and 1975 Burnsville High School graduate said she began the race as a virtual unknown and visited more than 11,000 homes.

She had been visible in Republican politics as a convention delegate, former chair of House 40A Republicans and a local leader in the 2004 and 2008 presidential campaigns.

“With high taxes and regulation, you end up having a stagnant economy,” Myhra said. “What we need to do is we need to open up the gates through gradual reduction of business taxes and allowing competition with health care. That will allow businesses to flourish and the job market to grow.”

Myhra, a certified public accountant who has worked as a manager for the firm KPMG, said she didn’t take a no-new-taxes pledge during the campaign. Myhra said she doesn’t want to box herself in but intends to hold the line on taxes.

Morgan said that during his two terms in the House, “I voted against more tax increases than I voted for.” Morgan voted for the DFL’s 2009 $1 billion budget-balancing plan to raise taxes on high-income earners.

A Burnsville High School science teacher, Morgan said Myhra delivered more of her voters to the polls than he did his.

“By our math, if you look at the numbers, Pam only got maybe 150 more votes than Duke (Powell, the Republican he unseated) got in 2006. But I got 1,300 fewer votes. It’s not like people were moving massively from me to Pam. I just think that the people who voted for me before didn’t show up, and that’s our fault.”

Senate District 37

Incumbent state Sen. Chris Gerlach, R-Apple Valley, won his re-election bid in Senate District 37 on Tuesday with a win over Democratic challenger Michael Germain.

Gerlach garnered 20,622 votes (59.6 percent), while Germain claimed 13,984 votes (40.4 percent).

Gerlach, the owner of a direct marketing company in Eagan, was first elected to the state Senate in a special election in 2004, and won re-election in 2006.

Germain, of Apple Valley, is the news editor at OpedNews.com.

Senate District 37 includes Apple Valley, Rosemount and southeastern Burnsville.

House District 37A

State Rep. Tara Mack, R-Apple Valley, won her re-election bid on Tuesday for the House District 37A seat.

Mack claimed 60.5 percent of the ballots cast (9,675 votes), while Democratic challenger Derrick Lindstrom of Apple Valley garnered 6,301 votes, or 39.4 percent.

Mack is currently serving her first term in the state House, having defeated Shelley Madore, DFL-Apple Valley, in the 2008 election. Prior to her election in 2008, Mack worked as a legislative aide at the state Capitol.

Lindstrom, a community college instructor, was making his first bid for elected office.

House District 37A includes the western portion of Apple Valley and southeastern Burnsville.