Fischbach beats Schurman, keeps Senate seat

This article submitted by Molly Connors on 11/12/96.

When many voters went to bed on election night, Cold Spring Bakery owner Lynn Schurman was ahead in the District 14 Senate race.

When they woke up, they found Sen. Michelle Fischbach had kept her seat.

Fischbach's political career started in 1994 when she was elected to the Paynesville City Council.

She served on the council for 14 months. She ran for Joe Bertram's Senate seat in last winter's special election.

Fischbach won the election. She resigned from the city council two days before she was sworn in.

"Two days after the election, I was down in St. Paul," she said.

Fischbach ran for the Senate seat because she thought outstate Minnesota was being ignored by the legislature. Outstate schools receive less education funds and metro roads seemed to take priority over outstate roads.

Although Fischbach wasn't there for the entire legislative session, she said she was able to "get involved in issues that were going on." She was involved in a welfare reform program that gets people back to work.

She sees welfare reform as one of the bigger issues in the upcoming legislative session.

She wants to "change the system so it helps people," she said. "The way we have it set up right now, it kind of drags people in and they get stuck there."

Between now and the beginning of the 1997 legislative session in January, Fischbach will work on putting bills together. She'll also be "getting out and talking to people," she said.

Fischbach described her campaign as "intense." It's "tougher to campaign" when currently holding political office, she said. She ran a full-blown campaign on top of her duties as a senator, which included day-long hearings throughout the summer, plus "all the Senate stuff you've got to keep up with," she said.

Fischbach met with different groups throughout her campaign. She was especially impressed with high school students who visited her in the capitol.

These students were "fun · full of opinions ... a little more honest than adults," she said. Fischbach was also impressed because she couldn't see herself, as a high school student, having the courage to ask questions of legislators in St. Paul.

Fischbach, who has two children, has learned time management skills from her short time in the Senate.

Fischbach only stays overnight in St. Paul when she needs to attend an early meeting -- like 8 a.m. Otherwise, she commutes from St. Paul to Paynesville during the legislative session.

She runs a small business out of her home, so she can "be up at 2 a.m." if she needs to get paper work done.

As a new senator, Fischbach went to every meeting on time last year. That was before she found out about "Senate time." With all the meetings crammed into a short period of time, few meetings actually start on time. Senate meetings, Fischbach found out, generally begin 45 minutes after they're scheduled.

As for the future, Fischbach isn't sure.

"Four years from now -- we'll see," she said.

If she still feels like she's "actually doing something" she'll probably run again.

"If I felt at some point that I wasn't having a solid impact" she would let someone else in, she said.

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