Minnesota Republicans dominated in legislative races, with the GOP widening its majority in the House and positioned to regain control of the state Senate.
One of the big wins came in House District 21A, where Republican Barb Haley defeated DFLer Lisa Bayley with 55 percent of the vote. The two were battling for the open seat held by Red Wing Republican Rep. Tim Kelly, who decided not to see re-election.
Haley said in a phone interview she was humbled and honored to win.
“It’s been an incredible nine months meeting so many people and hearing their stories, and I just feel like I’ve been listening and learning and now here it is. I’m eager to start the work,” Haley said.
Republicans also knocked off two freshman DFL senators in southeast Minnesota. Faribault Mayor John Jasinski defeated Owatonna Sen. Vicki Jensen with 59 percent of the vote. Red Wing Republican Mike Goggin bested DFL Sen. Matt Schmit with 54 percent of the vote.
Goggin credited his win to hard work and the support of his campaign volunteers.
“I door knocked a lot of doors. I think that was the key. I was able to get out in front of people and get my message across that I have the critical thinking abilities as an engineer and as a project manager,” he said.
Sauke beats Bradley
There was a bright spot for Democrats in Rochester, where DFLer Duane Sauke defeated former Republican Rep. Fran Bradley in House District 25B. They were competing for the open seat held by retiring DFL Rep. Kim Norton.
In his concession speech, Bradley, who was seeking a return to the state House after retiring, said he was proud of the campaign and the team that he worked with.
“We did it positive,” Bradley said. “We did everything right.”
Moments after learning he had won, Sauke said he was in awe of the results. Heading into election night, the retired Realtor said he did not know what to expect.
“I didn’t know. I just had no clue,” he said.
Sauke said he is already anticipating heading to the Minnesota Capitol in January.
“There’s obviously a whole series of events that have been started, and now I will just walk through them,” he said.
Still, area GOP leaders, who had persuaded Bradley to run, said that they were disappointed at an outcome that appeared to validate negative advertising. Political parties and outside groups spent at least $332,000 on the race.
“I don’t believe Mr. Sauke had anything to do with a lot of the ads and mailers that were ran,” said Olmsted County GOP Chairman Aaron Miller. “The DFL Party really ran a nasty campaign on a good man.”
Rochester voters also returned GOP State Sens. Carla Nelson and Dave Senjem to St. Paul. GOP Reps. Nels Pierson and Duane Quam were also returned to the state House. With the state Senate poised to flip to Republican control, Senjem said it was too to talk about running as Senate majority leader but indicated he was open to it.
Originally published in the Post-Bulletin.