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Newport council member Gallagher to seek DFL nod for 54A House race

Newport City Council member Steven Gallagher said Friday he will seek the DFL nomination to run for the state House District 54A seat being vacated by Rep. John Kriesel.

Gallagher, in his first term on the Newport City Council, will join an growing field of south Washington County Democrats who hope to win back a seat held by the DFL for decades before Kriesel, a Republican who said he will not seek a second term, narrowly flipped the seat in 2010.

Four DFLers have stepped forward to vie for the local party's nomination at a March 31 convention. Already, Dan Lund, a Newport planning commissioner; Dan Schoen, a Cottage Grove police officer and St. Paul Park resident; and Katie Schwartz, a former School Board candidate and also a St. Paul Park resident, have announced they want to represent Democrats in the 54A contest this November.

The growing field, though, didn't dissuade Gallagher, 37, who said he thinks the bevy of DFL candidates is good for the party. He also said he believes his status as the lone candidate with elected experience will help him rise above the field.

"I really think I'm the most experienced person that's going to ask for the endorsement," he said, citing his experience as the executive director of a Minneapolis neighborhood organization in addition to his council experience.

Those 14 months on the Newport City Council are what spurred Gallagher to seek the local House seat, he said. Drastic cuts to local aid by the state - and, in many cases, resulting rises in property taxes to compensate - have been hard on local governments.

"When you're a council member and you have to lay people off who have families and are doing a good job but you can't afford it -- there has to be a different way," he said. "That's what drove me."

Gallagher said he'll abide by the decision made by delegates at the nominating convention, calling a primary wasteful and "irresponsible."