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Housley may move to run against Sieben

Karin Housley is not ready to move on after a redistricting decision put her and Sen. Katie Sieben in separate legislative districts, preventing a rematch of their 2010 race.

Instead, Housley may move in so she can challenge Sieben again.

A judicial panel's new legislative boundaries, released Feb. 21, kept most of south Washington County together in one Senate district but carved out St. Mary's Point, where Housley lives.

"I haven't ruled it out," Housley, a Republican, said of waging a rematch against Sieben. "I'm just trying to figure out the logistics behind it."

The Minnesota Constitution requires that a legislative candidate live in the district for six months before the election.

Housley said her family owns 10 acres in Afton for a future home.

"That was our plan somewhere down the road to build on it - just not that quickly," she said.

Housley said she is discussing her options with family. The new legislative boundaries put her in a district with two incumbent Republican senators, whom she said she would not challenge. To run against Sieben, Housley said she could rent in south Washington County while building a home.

"Don't write me off yet," she said.

Sieben said she plans to seek a third Senate term and is glad that the legislative boundaries changed very little.

"I really like the people that I represent and think that as far as the cities go, I have a good working relationship with city officials and the school districts, and I think that's a good thing," Sieben said.

Sieben said it's "odd" for Housley to move to run against her again.

"I'll let the voters be the judge of whether they want someone who doesn't live in the district to move into the district to run," she said. "She lives in a different Senate district now, so it seems odd that she would move just to run."

Housley said she is "struggling with" how voters would react.

"But I would be living in the district," she said. "It's done all the time and there are current sitting legislators that are doing it. It is my district; I still feel like it's my district. To me it doesn't seem weird."

In 2010, Sieben beat Housley 50-48 percent. Housley said the close results are an indication she would have a good chance against Sieben this fall. Plus, a possible ballot measure backed by Republicans that would amend the state constitution to require that voters show photo identification could help drive more GOP voters to the poll, she said.

"The Sieben name is such a big name in the whole area," Housley said. "I've heard from a lot of politicians that it sometimes does take two runs for people to believe you're legitimate."

Housley said she has heard of other Republicans who have expressed interest in running against Sieben if she does not.

One who won't challenge Sieben is Rep. John Kriesel. The Cottage Grove Republican told people who follow him on Twitter that he will not run against Sieben, suggesting instead that he will seek a second term in the redrawn House district, which is similar to his current District 57A.

"Thanks for the nice texts and emails, but I am not considering a MN Senate run at this time," Kriesel tweeted a day after the new maps were released. "The MN House is more rowdy. That's my style."

Kriesel did not respond to requests for comment on redistricting.

After the redistricting decision was announced, Senate District GOP chair Kellie Eigenheer called the redrawn map and the exit of Housley's St. Mary's Point hometown from the district "extremely disappointing."

"There are just a lot of decisions to be made in the next couple of weeks," Eigenheer said.

The local Republican and DFL parties each will meet March 31 to endorse their Senate and House candidates.

Beginning in the Nov. 6 election, the local district number will switch from 57 to 54, but little else changes for the next decade. The cities of Cottage Grove, St. Paul Park, Newport and Afton stay together along with Grey Cloud Island Township, Hastings and Nininger Township. Part of South St. Paul will continue to be included in the local district.

Democrats liked the redrawn district. Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said he thinks the redistricting may have made it a big stronger for Democrats. Before, Bakk said it was more of a toss-up district.

While Republicans sort out their side of the Senate race, Democrats are looking for a challenger to Kriesel.

Sieben and House District 57A DFL Chairwoman Diana Tunheim each said that a number of people have expressed interest in running.

"No way are we going to let that seat go unchallenged," Tunheim said.

Karla Bigham, a Cottage Grove Democrat who held the 57A seat for four years before Kriesel was elected, said she is not going to run for the Legislature this year.

Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, has said he will run for another House term representing the southern and eastern part of the district. Hastings resident Joanna Bayers, a Democrat, has already announced plans to run against McNamara.

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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