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Sawatzky to challenge Vogel, Liebl in Dist. 17B after big win

Mary Sawatzky has been endorsed by the DFL to run in House 17B. She will have a primary challenger. Jessica Rohloff has announced she plans to continue her campaign and run in the primary.

Update: With all precincts reporting, Mary Sawatzky won the District 17B primary for the DFL race with 1994 votes to 1031 votes for Jessica Rohloff.

WILLMAR -- Mary Sawatzky will challenge for the District 17B seat representing Willmar and most of Kandiyohi County.

Sawatzky apparently fended off a challenge by Jessica Rohloff in Tuesday's DFL primary. With 32 of 40 precincts reporting as of press deadline, Sawatzky led with a 1,882 to 964 vote tally, or a two-to-one advantage. Results are unofficial from the Minnesota Secretary of State Office.

"I'm excited about the support I'm getting from the district," said Sawatzky as she gathered with supporters on Tuesday night. She went door to door through the district as part of her primary campaign, and she said the experience has her looking forward to the upcoming race. She said voters are not interested in party labels, but want a legislator interested in representing their interests.

The November election will feature a three-way race between Sawatzky, DFL-Willmar, Republican incumbent Rep. Bruce Vogel, of Willmar, and Zack Liebl, of Atwater, the endorsed Independence Party candidate.

Rohloff, of Willmar, said she wishes Sawatzky the best in the upcoming election. She said she felt good about her primary campaign, pointing out that it helped raise issues important to the district.

This is Sawatzky's first bid for public office, but she carried the advantage of name recognition and an endorsement from her party's district convention to the primary battle. Sawtazky has been an educator in the Willmar Public Schools for 27 years, serves as the Education Minnesota president for the district, and is active in a variety of community organizations, from Legion baseball to the Kandiyohi County Relay for Life.

In her campaign, she emphasized her ability to build relationships and work with people from all walks of life.

Vogel is completing his first term in office after defeating Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, for the House District 13B seat. Redistricting has left the original district largely intact, removing a couple of townships in southern Kandiyohi County while adding a couple in the county's north to create the new district.

District 17B is completely within Kandiyohi County, including the cities of Atwater, Kandiyohi, New London, Pennock, Regal, Spicer, Sunburg and Willmar; and the townships of Arctander, Burbank, Colfax, Dovre, East Lake Lillian, Fahlun, Gennessee, Green Lake, Harrison, Irving, Kandiyohi, Lake Andrew, Lake Elizabeth, Mamre, New London, Norway Lake, Roseville, St. Johns, Whitefield and Willmar.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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