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Minnesota Legislative retirements

With an election coming up in 2014, some state House members are making it clear: they've had enough. If you know of others to add to the list, please email rachel.stassen-berger@startribune.com or contact me on Twitter at @rachelsb. See the 2012 list here: http://bit.ly/ygqWdU

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  1. Nine-term Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, announced in November that he would not run for a tenth term. Paymar won his last election with 72 percent of the vote. In the release announcing his retirement, he said, "As chair of the Public Safety Committee, I’ve always believed that we needed to be smart as well as tough on fighting crime, which is why I’ve been an ardent supporter of drug courts, re-entry programs for offenders leaving prison so they can successfully reintegrate into society, drug and sex-offender treatment and youth intervention programs." He also noted that he sponsored a gun control measure that "stalled" in this year. Read background on that here.
  2. Two-term Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester, told the Rochester Post Bulletin in 2013 that he had "no intention of running for the House seat." Benson lost a Republican endorsement in his bid to run for Congress against First District U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat, in April 2014. Republican activist Nels Pierson is already running for the state House seat Benson will vacate. (hat tip: Minnesota Legislative Reference Library.) Benson last won his seat with 57 percent of the vote. He told the Rochester Post Bulletin after the lost the Congressional endorsement that he was not rethinking his decision to retire.
  3. Two-term state Rep. Andrea Kieffer, R-Woodbury, said will not run again in November of 2013, as was first reported in Woodbury Patch. Woodbury can be a swing area and has been represented by both Democrats and Republicans in recent years. Kieffer, one of four House Republicans to vote to legalize same sex marriage this year, said that vote had nothing to do with her decision to retire. Rather, she mentioned a personal consideration -- her daughter has mitochondrial disease -- and her frustration at Capitol partisanship. Deputy Republican Party Chair Kelly Fenton is making a bid for the seat and Democratic planning commission member Kay Hendrickson said she would run before Kieffer announced her retirement. Keiffer last won with 55 percent of the vote.
  4. Longtime DFL Rep. Tom Huntley, of Duluth, announced in mid-December that he would not run for a twelfth term next year. He is the current chair of the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee and has long been instrumental in shaping the state's health policy. A release announcing his decision notes that he was an early and ardent supporter of Affordable Care Act, known as ObamaCare. The release said that he would continue "service in health care" upon leaving the Legislature. Huntley won his last race with 71 percent of the vote.
  5. Rep. John Benson, DFL-Minnetonka, said in mid-December that he would not run for another term. Benson was first elected in the suburban district in 2006 and has been a quiet, steady force at the Capitol. A former teacher, he sat on the education policy committee and was vice chair of the House rules committee. "I have viewed these past eight years in our citizen's legislature as an opportunity for me to help improve Minnesota's quality of life and then to return to private life," he said an a release announcing his retirement. Already, DFLer Jon Tollefson, a former foreign service officer, has announced a bid for the Benson seat. The Minnetonka area could be a swing district. Benson won it last year with 56 percent of the vote but the area also voted for Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen in Congress last year.
  6. Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, announced in late February that he would not run for re-election to the Minnesota House. He is running for governor. First elected in a special election in 2003, Zellers rose to become speaker in 2011 when Republicans took control of the House. In announcing his decision not to vie for another term, Zellers noted that he was only the third Republican since party designation to hold the speaker's post. The 2012 election swapped Republican control for Democratic control of the House. He was elected in 2012 with 55 percent of the vote.
  7. Rep. Ernie Leidiger, R-Mayer, announced in February that he would not run for a third term. He won his second term with 63 percent of the vote in his heavily Republican district. In his brief time in the Legislature, the quiet lawmaker attracted some attention for things unrelated to legislation. In 2011, he invited firebrand preacher Bradlee Dean to be a guest pastor on the House floor. Dean's controversial sermon caused the House to erupt and then Speaker Kurt Zellers apologized to the chamber. In 2013, a dispute over a property also brought Leidiger to foreclosure proceedings.
  8. Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, announced in late February that she would not run for another term. First elected in 1998, Holberg became a leader on fiscal, privacy and other issues. She had also championed anti-abortion issues and was an early sponsor of a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage. Holberg won her last race with nearly 60 percent of the vote.
  9. Rep. David FitzSimmons, R-Albertville, dropped out of endorsement contention in late February in the face of a challenge from within his party over his support for same-sex marriage. FitzSimmons, a longtime operative and Republican activist in the most conservative circles, had said before his local activists gathered to make an endorsement decision that he would not run in a primary. Republican Eric Lucero overwhelmingly won backing over FitzSimmons at a weekend convention in the district. FitzSimmons confirmed in March that he would not run for re-election.
  10. Rep. Pam Myhra, R-Burnsville, is gubernatorial candidate Marty Seifert's pick for lieutenant governor. At the same time he announced her as his running mate, she announced that she would not run for re-election. Myhra ousted a sitting DFL House member in her first election in 2012. In her last election, after new maps were drawn that added Republican areas to her district, she won 54 percent of the vote in a district where Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney won barely 51 percent of the vote.
  11. Republican Rep. Michael Beard, R-Shakopee, decided six terms was enough, he told his local Republicans in mid-March. In a news release, the Scott Country Republican Party group said: "As a 'Citizen Legislator' in the Minnesota House, Beard's decision not to seek another term was quite simple.  He wants to devote more time to his wife, Karen, his children, and to his growing family of grandchildren." Beard, a former chair of the House Transportation Finance Committee, was last elected with 55 percent of the vote.
  12. Rep. Kathy Brynaert, DFL-Mankato, announced in late March that she would not run for a fifth term. Announcing her retirement, she said that her husband was also retiring and, "with much consideration, we know that this is a journey we want to share from the beginning together and we never have adjusted well to the living apart half the year routine." At the Legislature, Brynaert focused particularly on education issues. She sits on the Education Policy; Early Childhood and Youth Development Policy; Education Finance; Higher Education Finance and Policy; Ways and Means committees. She won her last election with 64 percent of the vote.


    Rep. Kelby Woodard, R-Belle Plaine, considered a rising star in the House, announced in April that he decided not to seek re-election after he was asked to start a new Catholic High School. Woodard, who was elected to the House in 2010, became an assistant minority leader last year and and in recent months frequently served as a spokesman for House Republicans at press conferences.  The married father of five is a former Target executive who went on to found several companies focused on international trade. In addition to his role in House GOP leadership, he has been serving as the caucus lead on K-12 funding issues. He won his 2012 race with 54 percent of the vote.


    Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, said in late April that he would not run for a ninth term, declaring himself "all in" as a candidate for U.S. Senate. Abeler, known as a collaborator and a leader for developing policy in the Health and Human Services field, served 16 years in the House but decided it was time to take his talents to Washington.  “If good people don’t go to Washington, Washington cannot be good,” Abeler said. “Washington is supposed to be us. St. Paul is supposed to be us.” He won his last race with 59 percent of the vote.

    Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-Hopkins, won the DFL endorsement to run for Secretary of State in late May so will not be running for the House again. An attorney first elected in 2004, Simon has served on one elections-related committee of another his entire time in the Legislature. He now chairs the Election Committee, where it is his charge to develop bipartisan election bills for the governor to sign. 

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