Sen. Gazelka has concerns about how political shift will impact Greater Minnesota
While statewide, Democrats took over control of the House and Senate, local voters kept Republicans in the new Senate District 9 and House District 9B seats, as well as seats in the Senate District 15 and House District 15B.
Paul Gazelka, Cass County, who currently represents Senate District 12 in the legislature, amassed 53.67 percent with 20,596 votes to win the new Senate District 9 seat over challenger Democrat Al Doty, who received 17,728 votes for 46.20 percent.
The new Senate District 9 includes just more than 79,000 residents and encompasses most of Morrison County and Todd County and portions of Cass and Wadena counties.
In the House 9B race, first-time Republican candidate Ron Kresha of Little Falls, garnered 9,881 votes (52.97 percent) over first-time DFLer Adrian Welle of Pierz. Welle received 8,751 votes (46.91 percent).
The new House District 9B includes most of Morrison County and parts of Todd County, and represents more than 39,000 residents.
The fact that the two will head to St. Paul to work with a majority of Democrats concerns Gazelka.
“I got a good night’s sleep and woke up to a different political country — both in Minnesota and across the nation,” said Gazelka of the morning after the election.
And while that may cause him some concerns, “Life is still good,” he said.
Doty called Gazelka to congratulate him on his win.
“Al called me after I went to bed and left a message congratulating me, and I called back the two numbers I had for him and left a message,” said Gazelka.
“He was gracious, absolutely, as I would have been if I had been on that end,” said Gazelka.
“Al served his two terms and did his best for the area; he should be commended for his efforts,” said Gazelka.
“It’s really hard work being at the capitol and campaigning and anyone who has done it knows what I’m talking about,” he said.
“Minnesota is a completely Democratic state from every executive branch, elected office and leadership in the House and the Senate,” said Gazelka. “Clearly you’re going to see a different agenda.”
He said Minnesotans should expect tax increases and a much more liberal social agenda as well as a greater shift of emphasis on metro areas instead of rural areas.
“Almost everybody inside of the 494/694 corridor are Democrats,” said Gazelka.
“When you have the majority of the population there, that’s definitely going to be a shift,” he said.
“I heard a lot of people both nationally and locally, there seems to be a shift in attitudes,” said Gazelka. “For me it’s disappointing, but that’s just the way it is. I’m accepting this fact now.”
He said he doesn’t know whether that will change four years from now, “When people are more frustrated then than now, we’ll see,” he said.
“It feels like a shift, but it’s my responsibility to articulate a more conservative values message, that represents my area and I’ll continue to do that,” something he is very passionate about, he said.
Gazelka pointed out Minnesota is ranked 45th out of 50 states for places being conducive for job providers.
“Gov. Dayton said he wants to raise taxes on them,” said Gazelka. “My concern is that we may lose more businesses if that tone does not change.”
Although he’s uneasy about what’s ahead, “Certainly I’m going to work to the best of my abilities. My background is as a job creator; I think I have a better than average understanding of how a job is created.”
Kresha, a small business owner himself having started a couple of businesses after his years as an educator, is looking forward to going to St. Paul.
“If we’re really sincere about what we said when we were campaigning and work for the benefit of the district, which is what I want to do, I look forward to going down there,” said Kresha.
He said he plans to look at every bill, to work on economic, education and business growth issues in the local area.
The fact that Democrats will hold a majority in the House, “Shouldn’t change the fact that we need to work on the financials of the state,” said Kresha.
While Morrison County voters did not vote against the Marriage Amendment and the Voter Photo ID Amendment, the majority of Minnesotans did.
“I think you can expect gay marriage to pass,” said Gazelka, although not right away.
“I would be surprised if it’s not addressed, when some of their (DFL) seasoned leadership has talked about it as far back as 2010,” he said.
Kresha said he had no opinion one way or the other about the amendments.
“It’s pretty clear the voters spoke. I always said it was important that the voters had their say,” he said.
Kresha’s five children were “pretty excited,” he said. The Kresha family found out the final results of the election at home.
Wendy, Kresha’s wife, has been very supportive, he said. “We’re all optimistic and positive about the experience,” he said.
“How could you not look at it and realize it’s a pretty big honor?” said Kresha.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Kresha. “I appreciate all the support, appreciate how clean the campaign was from Adrian as well, and I have a lot of respect for him and the way he ran his campaign.”
However things shake out, Gazelka said he had a lot to be thankful for.
“I need to thank certainly my wife (Maralee) and 11-year-old daughter for being part of the campaign,” he said.
So, too, the hundreds of volunteers across the four counties included in Senate District 9. “Without them, there’s no way I could have won,” he said.
He is also thankful to voters. “I’m honored, and I do intend to represent all the constituents,” he said. “My door is absolutely always open — whether you voted for me not.”
In Senate District 15, Republican Dave Brown of Becker received 21,911 votes for 56.56 percent over his Democratic challenger Sally Knox of Ogilvie, who received 16,776 votes (43.30 percent).
In House District 15B, 11,414 voters chose Republican Jim Newberger, giving him 57.77 percent of the vote, over DFLer Brian Johnson’s 8,316 votes (42.09 percent).
Senate District 15 and House District 15B includes Morrill and Lakin townships in Morrison County.