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Sen. Vicki Jensen, Sen. Michelle Benson, Rep. Dan Schoen and Rep. Kelby Woodard.

LIPP: One to Watch

Vicki Jensen

Vicki Jensen

Sen. Vicki Jensen

In her first term in the Senate, Jensen has quickly established herself as a politician who can get things done. Most notably this session, Jensen fought for $300 million that will be allocated to much-needed transportation projects, such as Highway 14 – a project viewed as a priority for many residents in the area. Jensen serves on four committees, including as vice chair of the Commerce Committee.

Jensen attended South Central Technical College, and works as an independent insurance agent. She lives in Owatonna with her husband, Trevor, and three children, and has previously been a school board member and chair of the public policy committee at the area Chamber of Commerce. She’s the first DFLer to be elected to a state Senate seat in the conservative district in 40 years.

Michelle Benson

Michelle Benson

Sen. Michelle Benson

A second-term senator from Ham Lake, Benson is known as a savvy policymaker who asks the right questions. As ranking GOP member of the Health, Human Services and Housing Committee, Benson has been an energetic conservative voice in opposition to the 2010 federal Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. She also recently made headlines by calling out Gov. Mark Dayton for not putting enough pressure on the Department of Human Services to comply with federal requirements, citing a new audit of DHS. She also serves on the chamber’s Health and Human Services Finance Division as well as the Environment and Energy Committee.

Benson is originally from Murdoch, Minnesota, where she grew up on a farm. She holds a chemistry degree from the College of St. Catherine and an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas. She previously worked as an auditor and consultant for Deloitte & Touche, and now as executive director of the Upper Midwest Security Alliance. When Congresswoman Michele Bachmann announced she would not seek reelection, Benson’s high profile at the Capitol immediately led reporters to speculate that she might become a candidate for Congress, though she later announced she would not run.

Dan Schoen

Dan Schoen

Rep. Dan Schoen

Elected in 2012, Schoen has long been a crusader for limiting the sale of synthetic drugs. As a Cottage Grove police officer, he saw the harmful effects of these drugs first hand, and began publicly calling for new statewide restrictions, even testifying at the Legislature. Schoen will now continue the fight as a member of a new task force designed to study the issue in Minnesota and propose new policies.

Schoen, a DFLer, graduated from MACCRAY high school in 1993, and earned degrees from Ridgewater College and Minneapolis Community and Technical College. He lives in St. Paul Park, and has worked as police officer and paramedic for more than a decade. Schoen succeeded one-term Republican Rep. John Kriesel and quickly took his place as a standout, becoming the sole freshman named to the conference committee on the health insurance exchange bill. He was also a vocal proponent of tightening Minnesota’s gun laws during the contentious debate that dominated much of the session. Schoen serves on four committees in the House: Public Safety Finance and Policy, Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy, Health and Human Services Policy, and Taxes.

Kelby Woodard

Kelby Woodard

Rep. Kelby Woodard

Since he was elected in 2010, Woodard has counted K-12 education issues among his top priorities. As Republican lead on the House’s Education Finance Committee, he’s been highly critical of Democrats’ handling of the K-12 school shift. Despite his relative newcomer status, Woodard was appointed assistant minority leader of the House Republican caucus, often taking the lead at GOP press conferences in Minority Leader Kurt Daudt’s absence. He also serves as a member of the Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy Committee, the Rules and Legislative Administration Committee, Ways and Means, and as an alternate for Ethics.

Woodard is a small business owner from Belle Plaine. In 2010, he unseated incumbent Rep. David Bly by just 37 votes. Redistricting in 2012 left him with more securely Republican turf to represent; his southeastern Minnesota district encompasses portions of Le Sueur and Scott counties.

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