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Paynesville Press - November 15, 2006

Locals favor
Republicans in election

By Michael Jacobson

Five incumbents won re-election to the Minnesota Senate and House in the Paynesville area, with the only upset being Joe Gimse (R-Willmar) unseating Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson (DFL-Willmar) in Senate District 13.

Paynesville area voters, once again, favored Republican candidates, with five of the six state legislators being Republicans as well as other winners such as Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Eagan) and Congress-woman-elect Michele Bachmann (R-Stillwater) in the Sixth Congress-ional District. But some winning Democratic candidates - new U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minneapolis), Congressman Collin Peterson (D-Detroit Lakes) in the Seventh Congressional District, and Rep. Larry Hosch (DFL-St. Joseph) also fared well locally.

Turnout in the Paynesville area, while still topping 70 percent in most precincts, was lower than in 2004 for the presidential election.

Minnesota Senate
While the DFL Party was enlarging its majority in the Minnesota Senate by six seats - increasing its advantage from 38-29 to 44-23 - Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson (DFL-Willmar) was the one notable DFL loss. Johnson, seeking his seventh term in the state senate, was defeated by Joe Gimse (R-Willmar) by a margin of 553 votes.

Gimse, a land developer and home builder who has been active politically for decades, used a strong showing in Stearns County to defeat Johnson, a Lutheran pastor, former National Guard chaplain, and state legislator since 1978, when he was first elected to the Minnesota House.

Senate District 13 includes Kandiyohi County, Pope County, and the western half of Stearns County. Of the 32 precincts in Stearns County, Gimse won 29, outpolling Johnson by 1,560 votes in Stearns County (4,887 to 3,327).

Johnson had a slight edge in Kandiyohi County, edging Gimse by 100 votes (8,993 to 8,893), and he garnered 907 more votes than Gimse in Pope County (3,349 to 2,442).

But Gimse's 1,500-vote margin in Stearns County propelled him to the ouster of Johnson by 553 votes. Gimse got 50.8 percent of the votes in Senate District 13, while Johnson got 49.1 percent.

In Senate District 14, represented by Sen. Michelle Fischbach (R-Paynesville) since 1996, Fischbach earned another four-year term in the Minnesota Senate by defeating challenger Paul Stacke (DFL-Sartell) by nearly 6,000 votes. Fischbach, originally elected to a partial term and then re-elected in 1998 and 2002, got 58.6 percent of the vote, compared to 41.2 percent for Stacke.

Senate District 14 includes most of the eastern half of Stearns County, excluding St. Cloud. Fischbach outpolled Stacke, a retired political reporter, by 5,400 in Stearns County, getting over 60 percent of the vote, and by nearly 600 in a sliver of Benton County, including Sartell and Sauk Rapids.

In the city of Paynesville and Paynesville Township, Fischbach got over 70 percent of the votes, beating Stacke by a margin of 1,212 to 509. In all, she won 47 of the 55 precincts in Senate District 14.

Sen. Steve Dille (R-Dassel) also cruised to re-election in Senate District 18, which includes Meeker and McLeod counties and part of Wright County. Dille outpolled Hal Kimball (DFL-Annandale) by 7,500 votes to earn the right to continue to represent Senate District 18, which he has done since 1993. The farmer/ veterinarian has served as a state legislator since 1987.

Dille won 64 of the 68 precincts in Senate District 18, including all 30 precincts in Meeker County. The two local precincts in Senate District 18 are Manannah Township and Union Grove Township, both carried by Dille.

Minnesota House
All three local representatives in the Minnesota House - Rep. Bud Heidgerken (R-Freeport), Rep. Larry Hosch (DFL-St. Joseph), and Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City) - were re-elected. Heidgerken (House District 13A) and Urdahl (House District 18B) earned third terms in the House, originally being elected in 2002; Hosch (House District 14B, including Paynesville) won a second term, first being elected in 2004.

Heidgerken defeated Bruce Shuck (DFL-Sunburg) by a wide margin again in House District 13A, which includes the northern part of Kandiyohi County, western Stearns County, and all of Pope County. In 2004, Heidgerken beat Shuck by more than a two-to-one vote margin, and this time Heidgerken got nearly 70 percent of the vote.

Once again Heidgerken, a former teacher and business owner, beat Shuck in all three counties: by 154 votes in Kandiyohi County, by 1,253 votes in Pope, and by 4,977 in Stearns. Heidgerken won 66 of 71 precincts in the District 13A and got almost 80 percent of the vote in Stearns County, including over 90 percent of the vote in Elrosa (91-10) and almost 90 percent in St. Martin (110-14).

Hosch won re-election by a margin of 2,518 over Nate Stang (R-Cold Spring) in House District 14B, which is the center of Stearns County.

Hosch, the former mayor of St. Joseph and a graduate of St. John's University, enjoyed voter margins of 1,177 in St. Joseph and 510 in Collegeville Township (St. John's) but also carried 21 of the 26 precincts in District 14B, including Cold Spring.

Hosch carried the city of Paynes-ville 600 to 428 and edged Stang in Paynesville Township 353 to 343. Hosch got 55 percent of the vote in the city of Paynesville and Paynesville Township, just under his 57 percent margin overall.

Of the five precincts won by Stang, the nephew of former Rep. Doug Stang, two were Eden Lake Township (332 to 310) and Zion Township (69 to 62).

Urdahl also won a rematch with David Detert (DFL-Litchfield), prevailing by just under 1,000 votes in House District 18B. Urdahl defeated Detert for the Republican endorsement in District 18B in 2002 and defeated Detert, running for the DFL Party, by 2,300 votes in 2004.

Detert, a physician in Litchfield, outpolled Urdahl in Meeker County this year, getting 193 more votes than Urdahl (4,925 to 4,732). Urdahl had carried Meeker County by nearly 500 votes in 2004.

But Urdahl, a retired teacher and coach, used an 1,184-vote margin in Wright County to earn re-election. This was down from a 2,000-vote margin in ten Wright County precincts in 2004 but was still enough to send Urdahl back to St. Paul for a third term.

Detert won 16 of 28 precincts in Meeker County this year, including Litchfield, but Urdahl won nine of ten precincts in Wright County including the cities of Annandale, Cokato, and Howard Lake.

While House representatives in the Paynesville area stayed the same, the composition of the Minnesota House changed dramatically, with the DFL Party taking 19 extra seats in last week's elections. This means the DFL Party will have an 85-49 majority in the House starting in January. Hosch will move from the minority party to the majority, while Heidgerken and Urdahl will move from the majority side to the minority.

Election Results

Amy Klobuchar (D-Minneapolis) became the first female senator for Minnesota by defeating Rep. Mark Kennedy (R-Watertown) for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minneapolis). Her victory helped the Democratic Party take a slim 51-49 margin in the U.S. Senate following the election.

State Sen. Michele Bachmann (R-Stillwater) defeated children's advocate Patty Wetterling (D-St. Joseph) to represent the Sixth Congressional District, including Paynesville, in the U.S. House. Bachman kept the seat, which was being vacated by Kennedy, for the Republican Party.

Finally, Collin Peterson (D-Detroit Lakes) earned his ninth term to the U.S. House representing the Seventh Congressional District in Minnesota, easily defeating challenger Michael Barrett (R-Long Prairie). With the Democratic Party taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Peterson should become the chair of the House agriculture committee.

Peterson won with 69.7 percent of the vote, to 29.0 percent for Barrett. He was the only Democrat in a state or federal race to be preferred by local voters, outpolling Barrett by a roughly 2-1 margin in the Paynesville area. His district includes Kandiyohi and Meeker counties as well as western Stearns County.

Klobuchar, the prosecutor for Hennepin County, came the closest of other Democratic candidates in the Paynesville area, being edged by Kennedy 2,473 to 2,398 by local voters. Statewide, however, she got 58.1 percent of the vote, compared to 37.9 percent for Kennedy.

Bachmann defeated Wetterling 50.0 percent to 42.2 percent, or a margin of 24,000 votes in the Sixth District with John Benkowski of the Independence Party getting nearly eight percent of the vote. In the Paynesville area, voters favored Bachmann by a slightly larger margin, almost 2-1, with Benkowski drawing over seven percent of the vote.

State Offices
Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Eagan) earned a second term by besting attorney general Mike Hatch (DFL-Burnsville) by 22,000 votes statewide, which equates to one percentage point (46.7 to 45.7). Peter Hutchinson was the other Independence Party candidate to get more than five percent of the vote, getting 6.4 percent of the statewide vote. (Hutchinson's showing in a statewide race kept major-party status for the Independence Party.)

Pawlenty fared better with local voters than he did statewide, getting nearly 60 percent of the vote in the Paynesville area. Hatch got only a third of the local vote, while Hutchinson drew 6.6 percent of the local vote, slightly better than he did statewide and even bea ting Hatch in a couple of local precincts.

Local voters favored the Republican candidates for the other state offices - attorney general, auditor, and Secretary of State - but all three - Jeff Johnson (R-Plymouth), incumbent Pat Anderson (R-Eagan), and incumbent Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake) respectively - were beaten by their DFL challengers - Lori Swanson, Mark Ritchie, and Rebecca Otto - in the statewide vote.

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