State Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, announced Thursday that he won’t seek a sixth term.
Lanning’s announcement comes less than a month after Gov. Mark Dayton signed the Vikings stadium bill of which he was the chief House author.
Lanning, along with his Senate counterpart Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, stayed with the Vikings bill through more than a year of legislative battle in which it at times appeared doomed. Lanning’s position was particularly difficult, because his GOP caucus leaders were personally against the bill. That divide created some challenging moments, such as the episode last fall when GOP leaders turned down Dayton’s call for a pre-Thanksgiving special session to hold a vote on the stadium. Lanning met with Dayton immediately after the meltdown and commenced with a task force that worked to keep the stadium’s prospects alive.
In a release, House Speaker Kurt Zellers praised Lanning’s public service. “Rep. Lanning has served his community and our state with great class, and he is a true statesman,” Zellers said. “I’ve had the privilege of knowing Morrie since before either of us came to St. Paul. His dedication to public service and the honorable way he goes about working with his colleagues are second to none. We will miss having him as a legislator. I wish him well as a colleague and a friend.”
In addition to carrying the Vikings bill, Lanning has been the chairman of the State Government Finance Committee and of the Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement. While his stadium bill authorship this year overshadowed his work on pensions, he considers the 2012 omnibus pension bill to be one of his most important legislative accomplishments. The bill reduces the state’s assumed annual investment rate of return, which many viewed as too high — potential masking the real magnitude of Minnesota’s projected pension shortfall.
“The 2012 bill was another step toward reforming pensions, Lanning told PIM. “That issue has not really surfaced in the minds of the public. But in terms of unfunded liabilities and potential problems there are down the road with unfunded liabilities, it could really end up costing the taxpayers a lot more money down the road but also end up with the state not being able to keep its promises to retirees.”
Before first winning election to the House in 2002, he served as a Moorhead City Council member and more than 20 years as mayor of Moorhead. He spent his professional career as an administrator at Concordia College.
With Lanning’s departure, the Capitol loses not just a key figure on the session-dominating stadium initiative, but one of an increasingly rare breed of moderate Republicans who has remained influential even as the GOP has moved to the right. Lanning noted that the political environment in St. Paul is challenging but not insurmountable.
“What I hope we’ve been able to demonstrate,” Lanning said, “is even in a difficult political environment, if you work together cooperatively across the political aisle, you can get big things done. In fact I believe it’s difficult to get big things done at all unless you’ve got an ability to work across the aisle.”
Redistricting placed Lanning in House District 4A. The local GOP had not scheduled an endorsing convention as Lanning considered his future during the spring.
DFLer Ben Lien has been endorsed for the seat by local Democrats. On Friday, two Republican candidates registered to run for the seat: Travis Reimche, a patient account manager at Sanford Health in Fargo, was also a 2009 candidate for mayor of Moorhead; sources say he will have Lanning’s support. Ken Lucier, a Ron Paul activist and self-described “constitutional conservative,” also filed Friday.
Lanning noted that he first filed to run for the House with the support of retiring GOP Rep. Kevin Goodno.
Lanning said. “Ten years ago when I first ran,” Lanning noted, “in fact, the week right after Memorial Day, Kevin Goodno gave me the final word that he was not going to run again. He announced Monday and I announced the second day. I felt that was the way it should be done.”