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Redistricting, Political Environment Force Turnovers

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Republican Majority Leader of the Minnesota House announced Monday he will be running for re-election against a fellow Republican.

Rep. Matt Dean is challenging Rep. Carol McFarlane after new political maps paired the two in the same district.

Meanwhile, other legislators — facing the same decisions — are calling it quits. The Minnesota House and Senate, which value tradition and seniority, are now the nexus of an unusually large number of retirements.

Sen. Geoff Michel, R–Edina, said ten years is long enough. Now his focus will be family and a better paying job.

“I have four daughters under the age of 15. Help me!” joked Michel, who was first elected in 2002.

“Someone was explaining that’s four college tuitions and four weddings. I think it’s fair to say a legislative salary probably won’t cover that,” he said.

Michel is far from alone.

At least 19 members of the House and Senate are retiring, or running for another office.

Twelve are running against each other after their legislative boundaries changed. As in other years, some will lose their elections.

It’s possible than 10 percent of this legislature will disappear.

Democrat Kate Knuth is a 6-year House veteran who is retiring to pursue a Ph.D. in Conservation Biology.

Redistricting made her re-think her plans, in part because of harsh environmental politics.

“I love this job,” Knuth said. “But there’s been a shift in the last 5 years making clean energy and climate issues much more partisan.”

Among the most surprising names on the retirement list is Republican Sen. Doug Magnus, an agricultural expert known for his congeniality in an increasingly toxic political environment.

“It’s a pretty good run for a farm boy,” said Magnus, one of the most popular lawmakers in both political parties.

Elected to the House in 2002, and the Senate in 2010, Magnus said he’s noticed that it’s harder for opposing lawmakers to get along.

“Both sides are so far entrenched here at the Capitol,” he said. “Its hard to come to the middle and get something done and accomplish things for the good of the state.”

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