After the endorsements: DFL expresses increasing confidence for Cottage Grove-area legislative seatsArea Democrats expressed increasing confidence in their chances at winning back a majority of local seats in the state Legislature.
Area Democrats expressed increasing confidence in their chances at winning back a majority of local seats in the state Legislature Saturday at a party convention in South St. Paul, saying Republicans have stalled the state’s economic recovery since sweeping to control at the Capitol in 2010.
Senate District 54 DFLers endorsed Cottage Grove police officer Dan Schoen to seek the soon-to-be vacant 54A House seat won by Republican John Kriesel in 2010, and tapped Joanna Bayers, a public employee and union member from Hastings, to face longtime Republican incumbent Denny McNamara in 54B.
Delegates also unanimously endorsed incumbent state Sen. Katie Sieben, of Cottage Grove, to run for a third term in the state Senate during the gathering at South St. Paul High School.
Schoen, of St. Paul Park, maneuvered a crowded field of 54A hopefuls that included Newport City Council member Steven Gallagher, Newport planning commissioner Dan Lund and former District 833 School Board candidate Katie Schwartz, of St. Paul Park.
He easily won the party’s nod to contest the House District 54A race on the first ballot by earning more than 60 percent of votes cast by local DFL activists. Bayers was unopposed in seeking the 54B endorsement.
Schoen will face Cottage Grove City Council member Derrick Lehrke in the fall. Lehrke won the endorsement of local Republicans Saturday afternoon in Hastings.
Schoen, a St. Paul Park resident making his first run for elected office, said GOP lawmakers have not focused on improving the state’s economy, instead concentrating their efforts as the majority party on constitutional amendments that would ban gay marriage and would require voter photo ID at polling places.
“No matter what side of the aisle you sit on, the controlling party has shirked their responsibility to the people of Minnesota,” Schoen said in an interview after he had secured the endorsement. “(Republicans) are talking about constitutional amendments when they needed to balance the budget and create jobs. They’re more worried about a man and a man getting married or a woman and a woman getting married than solving the problems in the state that affect all of us.”
Bayers, a 29-year-old Ely native, will face an entrenched incumbent in McNamara, of Hastings, who has not faced a serious challenge to his seat since first winning election in 2002.
McNamara “has changed,” since he first won election, she said in an interview, voting squarely along party lines. That’s not something the district wants, she said.
A former intern in former Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar’s Duluth and Washington, D.C. offices, Bayers is also making her first run for public office. She has touted her support of and membership in the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, the union representing state public sector employees.
“We have done nothing” in the state Legislature, she said, noting GOP efforts to amend the state’s constitution. “(Republicans) have stalled Minnesota. We need jobs.”