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Koenen chosen to succeed Kubly as District 20 senator in western Minn.

Ivan Meintz, right, checks in to cast his ballot in Clara City during the special election Tuesday for the District 20 Senate seat held by the late Gary Kubly of Granite Falls. Election judge Colette Grussing assists. Rep. Lyle Koenen of Clara City was chosen by voters to succeed Kubly. The Senate term ends this year. Redistricting has put much of the area served by Kubly into the new District 17. Koenen intends to seek the DFL endorsement for Senate in the new district, as does Larry Rice of Willmar. (T...

CLARA CITY -- Rep. Lyle Koenen will be moving from the House to the Senate for the remainder of the year after winning a three-way race Tuesday for the Senate District 20 seat.

Koenen, DFL-Clara City, won by a comfortable margin.

He defeated Gregg Kulberg, a Republican from Hector, and Leon Greenslit, a member of the Independence Party from Olivia.

Koenen garnered 54 percent of the votes cast.

In unofficial results posted by the Secretary of State's office, Koenen received 3,914 votes; Kulberg had 2,912 and Greenslit had 364. There were two write-in votes cast.

Once the election returns are certified by the state canvassing board, Koenen will fill the seat that had been held by the late Sen. Gary Kubly. The longtime DFL legislator died last month. He had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, in 2010.

Koenen, who has served 10 years in the House, said he decided to run in the special election because of his personal friendship with Kubly.

When reached shortly after the final results were reported, Koenen thanked those who worked on the campaign while he was busy at the Capitol.

"Thanks to everybody that helped," he said. "It can't be done alone."

Considering it was a three-way race, Koenen said he was pleased with the margin of the win.

Kulberg said he was disappointed with his loss.

"I thought we had a pretty good shot here," said Kulberg, who said he ran a "fair and square" campaign.

Kulberg said he has no immediate plans to run for office in the near future but didn't rule it out completely.

The state canvassing board will certify the election results on Friday in St. Paul, but Koenen won't take office until April 17, according to Patricia K. Turgeon, assistant communications director for the Secretary of State's office.

The Legislature reconvenes April 16 following a weeklong break.

Turgeon, in an earlier interview, said there will not be an election to fill Koenen's House seat because the legislative session is expected to adjourn before an election could be held.

Although Senate District 20 -- comprised of Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Lincoln, Renville, Swift and Yellow Medicine counties -- has twice as many people as the House district Koenen currently represents, he said his experience in the House will make the transition to the Senate easier.

But he will have to move to a new office and will be assigned to new committees. There will also be some new faces and names of staff to learn, he said.

Although the session may conclude by the end of the month, Koenen said he expects the last few weeks to be busy.

Koenen will represent Senate District 20 only until the end of the year.

Then, because of redistricting, much of that geographic area will be part of the new Senate District 17, which includes all of Kandiyohi, Swift and Chippewa counties and the majority of Renville County.

A new slate of candidates will run in that race this fall.

Three candidates have already said they intend to run, including Koenen and fellow DFLer Larry Rice of Willmar, and Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar.

Koenen and Rice will both seek the DFL endorsement during the Senate District 17 convention Thursday at the MACCRAY High School in Clara City.

But it is possible the candidate who does not receive the endorsement will file to run in a primary election. If that happens, the winner of the DFL primary would presumably face Gimse in November.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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