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If it’s possible to judge a legislator’s re-election vulnerability solely on the number of challengers that he or she attracts, then Lisa Fobbe, Jim Carlson and Kevin Dahle should probably watch their backs.

Lege races starting to come into focus

Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

DFL Sen. Kevin Dahle, right, drew four Republican challengers in his Senate District 25 re-election bid—one of whom, Alan DeKruif, was endorsed by the GOP earlier this week. (Staff file photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

If it’s possible to judge a legislator’s re-election vulnerability solely on the number of challengers that he or she attracts, then Lisa Fobbe, Jim Carlson and Kevin Dahle should probably watch their backs.

Less than eight months before the November general election, the three first-term DFL state senators – Fobbe from Zimmerman, Carlson from Eagan and Dahle from Northfield – have earned the distinction of drawing the most challengers.

In Fobbe’s District 16, five Republicans have filed with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board to seek their party’s nomination to challenge the first-term senator, who squeaked out a win over GOP challenger Alison Krueger in a 2008 special election by only 85 votes.

Those Republicans are Jason White of Big Lake, Patrick Munro of Princeton, Dave Brown and James Wallace Newberger of Becker, and Chris Kumpula of Elk River. District 16 Republicans have not yet endorsed a candidate to run against Fobbe.

Carlson and Dahle, who won their first elections by healthier margins than Fobbe, have each drawn four Republican challengers.

In Carlson’s District 38 – which he won in 2006 by a 7 percent margin over incumbent Sen. Mike McGinn – four Eagan Republicans were jockeying to replace him: David Carlson, Rob Lambert, Mike Kaess and Ted Daley, who ultimately won the party’s endorsement.

And in Senate District 25, where Dahle defeated Republican Ray Cox by a 10 percent margin in a 2008 special election, three Republicans competed for the party’s endorsement: William Paulsen of Lonsdale, Alan DeKruif of Elysian and Jack Baker of Northfield. DeKruif earned the endorsement Tuesday night.

Minnesota’s Republican Party is tallying legislative endorsements from across the state on its website, and its numbers are updated regularly, according to Michael Brodkorb, the party’s deputy chair. So far, Republicans in 63 of the state’s 134 House districts and 28 of 67 Senate districts have endorsed candidates.

In only one case so far – Senate District 49, a seat currently held by Sen. Debbie Johnson, R-Ham Lake – have Republicans failed to endorse the incumbent to run in November. Instead of Johnson, District 49 Republicans gave the nod to Michelle Benson of Ham Lake, who earned the endorsement on the second ballot at the district’s February endorsing convention.

Although Johnson initially said she would abide by the endorsement and would not challenge Benson in a primary, she said later that she hadn’t yet decided whether her name will appear on a primary ballot.

Four state senators – two Republicans and two DFLers – have announced that they will retire from the Legislature after this session. Republicans have endorsed candidates in three of the districts up for grabs: Scott Newman of Hutchinson, who will run for the District 18 seat being vacated by Sen. Steve Dille, R-Dassel; John Howe of Red Wing, who will seek to replace departing Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, in District 28; and David Thompson of Lakeville, who hopes to claim the seat held by retiring District 36 Sen. Pat Pariseau, R-Farmington.

Two Republicans are vying to run for the District 22 seat held by retiring Sen. Jim Vickerman, DFL-Tracy: Kim Hummel and Mike Garber, both of Jackson. Republicans in that district have not yet endorsed a candidate, and there are no DFL candidates who have filed yet with the Campaign Finance Board to run in District 22.

Four House members also have announced their retirements, including Rep. Jeremy Kalin, DFL-North Branch, representing District 17B, and Rep. Cy Thao, DFL-St. Paul, of District 65A. Four Republicans – Jeremy Lindman of Lindstrom, Russell Goudge and Sheldon Anderson of Wyoming and Robert Barrett of Shafer – hope to be endorsed to run for Kalin’s seat, and four DFLers – Jeremiah Ellis, Tony Schmitz, Rena Moran and Jessica Webster, all of St. Paul – were seeking Thao’s seat before Ellis won the party’s endorsement earlier this month.

Two more members of the House hope to receive their party’s nominations to run for governor, and don’t plan to seek re-election to the Legislature: Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall. Taylor Gronau of Marshall hopes to receive the GOP’s nod to run for Seifert’s seat; thus far, no DFLers have registered to run in Seifert’s District 21A.

In Kelliher’s District 60A, Republicans endorsed Brian Gruber of Minneapolis, who will face the DFL’s endorsed candidate, Marion Greene of Minneapolis. Greene defeated two other DFL hopefuls, Katie Hatt and Tom Nordyke, for the party’s nod to succeed Kelliher.

Minnesota’s DFL Party doesn’t have its legislative endorsements compiled in a single location, and party officials weren’t able to provide the information by press time.

The accompanying chart includes information about all candidates who have registered with the Campaign Finance Board to run for the Legislature this year. Candidates who have been endorsed by their respective parties are noted, as are retiring legislators.

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