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Koenen narrowly wins, returns in House District 20B

Lyle Koenen, DFL, Clara City, won election to a fifth term to represent a district that has been a DFL-stronghold by holding off a challenge by a young, but energetic and emerging Republican challenger, Brian Kohout of Olivia.

Koenen held a 6,687 to 6,461 lead as unofficial results were tabulated Wednesday morning. The totals included 93 percent of the vote, with 72 of 77 precincts reporting.

Koenen, 54, grew up on a Chippewa County farm and became active in politics during the farm crisis. He is currently a contract milk hauler and school bus driver. He and his wife are parents to two boys in school, and he is a step-father to two adult sons.

Koenen campaigned as a hard worker who disdained the politics but relished the opportunity to get to the devil of the detail on behalf of his constituents in legislation affecting agriculture and farm land assessments, veteran's issues and fair taxes for the district. Koenen wants to maintain state support for rural education and government needs and would favor a mix of tax cuts and increased taxes on the wealthy to balance the budget.

Kohout, 21, took on his first bid for state office as the youngest candidate in the state and as full-time student at St. John's University. He is majoring in constitutional law. Kohout described himself as a conservative but also as a pragmatic candidate who puts the needs of his rural district first.

Kohout said he wants less government and opposes tax increases, but said he would fight to defend funding for rural educational needs and local government.