MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Jeff Howe has won the Minnesota State Senate seat vacated by Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach, over Democratic rival Joe Perske.

The Associated Press declared Howe the winner for the Senate seat, which includes parts of Stearns and Benton counties in central Minnesota.

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The contest between Perske and Howe began with the unexpected vacancy left by Fischbach, who was tapped for the lieutenant governor’s seat following the appointment of the former lieutenant governor, DFLer Tina Smith, to the U.S. Senate.

Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Smith to Washington following Al Franken’s resignation in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations. Initially, Fischbach sought to fill both the rolls of lieutenant governor and state senator.

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Following lawsuits, however, she was sworn into Dayton’s administration, leaving the balance of power in the senate at 33-33.

During the campaign for her Senate seat, money poured into the race, as Democrats saw an opportunity to take a seat in a deep-red district, which Fischbach won by 25 percentage points during her last two terms. In 2016, the district voted overwhelmingly for President Donald Trump.

Perske is the former mayor of Sartell, who campaigned on his pro-gun and anti-abortion views.

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Howe, on the other hand, is known to many of the constituents, because he served as a state House member for much of the district for six years.