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Governor sets Nov. 22 as date to fill two vacant Senate seats

MN Senate elections shaping up for late November

Voters in two state Senate districts will have a busy November.

In addition to the Nov. 8 general election, Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced this week that two vacant Senate seats will be filled by the winners of a Nov. 22 special election.

In District 19, Wright County voters will choose a successor to Mark Ourada, a Republican from Buffalo who took a job out of state after this year’s legislative session.

District 43 voters in the western suburbs of Plymouth and Minnetonka will replace Republican David Gaither, who was named Pawlenty’s chief of staff.

Within these two districts, the ballot was taking shape well before the governor announced the special elections on Monday.

Last weekend in District 43, Terri Bonoff received the DFL endorsement to run for the open state Senate seat.

Bonoff received the party’s endorsement over Tony Wagner, who is a member of the Minnetonka City Council. Wagner said he will abide by the endorsement.

Bonoff is a member of the Minnetonka Planning Commission. She also lobbied state legislators on education-funding matters last session on behalf of the Hopkins School District Legislative Action Coalition.

“District 43 can count on me to stand up for Minnesota’s values of excellence in education, affordable and accessible health care, spending accountability and a transportation system that meets the needs of today and tomorrow,” Bonoff said in a release after receiving the endorsement.

Bonoff will face Plymouth Mayor Judy Johnson, the Republican endorsee. Johnson was a familiar face at the Capitol last session due to her lobbying efforts as president of the League of Minnesota Cities.

Johnson, who was the only Republican candidate to file a Senate candidacy in District 43, also received the endorsement last weekend.

In rural and exurban District 19, John Deitering, the only DFLer to file as a candidate, was endorsed in September. Deitering, of Buffalo and a 35-year resident of Wright County, is a partner with Deitering McDonough Tax Service, according to the Wright County DFL Web site.

The Republican side of the race is more complicated.

The area, which leans Republican, has fielded three GOP candidates. They include Pat Sawatzke, Drew Emmer and Amy Koch. The party plans to hold an endorsing convention on Oct. 22 in Buffalo.

Emmer and Koch said they will abide by their party’s endorsement. Sawatzke, however, said he hasn’t promised to abide by the party’s endorsement and has made commitments to volunteers supporting his campaign that he would run in the special election.

If necessary, the governor’s special election decree calls for a special primary on Nov. 1.

Emmer, a businessman, moved to Delano from Minneapolis last year and worked on the campaign of his nephew, state Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Delano. While attending the University of St. Thomas in the 1980s, he spent a semester in Washington, D.C., working for former Republican U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger. In the recent legislative session, he was active at the state Capitol trying to pass campaign finance legislation, which he said was “sacrificed” during the deal-making toward session’s end.

Koch has been a linguist with the U.S. Air Force specializing in Russian. She now lives in Buffalo with her husband and daughter and works for her family’s utility service company. Education funding is an important issue for Koch because the area has grown in recent years.

Sawatzke has been a Wright County commissioner for 15 years. He and his wife own the Jade Patrick Salon in Monticello and manage a few rental properties in Wright County. Given his background, he is especially concerned about local government and economic development, spending time over the years at the state Capitol talking to legislators about those issues.

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