CLARA CITY -- Rep. Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City, fended off a challenge by first-time Republican candidate Don Swoboda to return to St. Paul.
Koenen won a fourth term as the District 20B representative in the Legislature by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, collecting 8,357 votes to Swoboda's 4,384 votes with 90 percent or 69 of 76 precincts reported as this edition went to press, according to unofficial results from the Minnesota Secretary of State's office.
Koenen said he is looking forward to returning to St. Paul and ready for the hard work ahead. He said the Legislature will be making difficult decisions as it puts together its budget while dealing with projections for a major deficit.
Although disappointed not to have won, Swoboda said he has no regrets about his decision to make his first run for state office and held open the option for another run.
"I got to meet a lot of great people,'' he said of the experience.
Swoboda, R-Olivia, said he learned from the experience too. He feels a late endorsement by the party meant a late start in fundraising and campaigning. Republican candidates also faced a head wind this election, said Swoboda. All of these factors made his bid to unseat an incumbent more difficult, he said.
The trying was worth it, he said. The campaign offered an opportunity to raise the issues affecting the rural district.
Rural issues are very much on the mind of Koenen as well, who said that voters often cited concerns about the economy, health care costs and education during the campaign. He said he also heard from many people eager to see renewable energy opportunities developed in the region for both their economic and environmental benefits.
Koenen first won office during a year of major Republican party gains. Now, he goes to St. Paul with greater seniority and as part of a party expected to increase its majority in the House. Koenen said he is looking forward to the opportunities to speak out for his district's needs.
Koenen, 52, operated a dairy farm for 25 years and raised beef cattle for another two years. He is currently a part-time truck and school bus driver. He and his wife, Sandy, are parents of four children.
Politics have long been part of the Koenen household. His father, Kenneth, is a Chippewa County commissioner and his brother, Kurt, is the mayor of Clara City.
Swoboda, 47, is a Renville County farmer and owner of a mobile home court. He and his wife, Mary, are parents of two children.