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Sieben: Back to majority, now in leadership

Katie Sieben is headed back to the state Capitol -- and into a Senate majority that she will now help lead.

Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, coasted to re-election last week and then was named an assistant Senate majority leader as Democrats reclaimed control of the Legislature

In her race for a third Senate term, Sieben won 63 percent to 36 percent over Republican challenger Janis Quinlan. The unofficial election results gave Sieben 26,998 votes to Quinlan's 15,256.

Sieben attributed her overwhelming victory to a number of factors.

"Hopefully it's because people think I'm doing a good job but it's also ... people were frustrated with the lack of bipartisanship and progress that took place the last two years," she said.

While Democrats took control of the House and Senate, the election results in many races that helped tip power were narrowly won by the DFL.

"I believe that because the races were close--we had relatively close margins of victory in many areas of the state--that it would be wise for the Democrats to govern from the middle," she said. "That doesn't mean we railroad through only DFL proposals. We work with Republicans" on job growth, health care reform and other issues.

Quinlan, a realtor, was making her first bid for elected office. Her campaign was heavily outspent by Sieben's, and there was little GOP-friendly independent campaign spending in the race.

Quinlan said in an interview that voters decided to pick an entrenched incumbent over a newcomer.

"Apparently people are OK with career politicians and they don't understand that average people are the people who are supposed to be serving our country," she said.

In 2010 Quinlan campaigned for Sieben's Republican opponent, Karin Housley. When redistricting earlier this year put Housley outside the south Washington County district, Quinlan said Housley encouraged her to run.

Quinlan, of St. Paul Park, said voters expressed partisanship in their legislative picks.

"That means that they're left-wing ideologues, I guess," she said.

Sieben won in all but one of the 34 precincts. She and Quinlan tied at 241 votes apiece in an Afton precinct. Quinlan said she had hoped to perform better in and immediately around St. Paul Park.

Sieben said she doesn't see herself as a career politician but as someone who grew up in the area and has been privileged to serve the area for "some time now." She spent four years in the Minnesota House before her first Senate election in 2006.

Sieben said that regardless of whether people voted for her or not, she looks forward to working for all of the district's residents.

Senate District 54 includes Cottage Grove, St. Paul Park, Newport, part of South St. Paul, Hastings, Denmark Township, Afton, Grey Cloud Island Township and Nininger Township.

The Senate term is four years.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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