Juhnke gains re-election to a seventh term in the House, holds off Wilhelm's third challenge
WILLMAR -- Rep. Al Juhnke was headed Tuesday toward a seventh term in the Minnesota House of Representatives. With nearly 95 percent of the precincts in House District 13B reporting, unofficial returns showed Juhnke, a DFL'er, the winner with 8,7...
WILLMAR -- Rep. Al Juhnke was headed Tuesday toward a seventh term in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
With nearly 95 percent of the precincts in House District 13B reporting, unofficial returns showed Juhnke, a DFL'er, the winner with 8,799 votes. Republican challenger Bonnie Wilhelm had 7,660 votes.
It was the third time in a row Juhnke and Wilhelm have squared off in District 13B, which covers the southern two-thirds of Kandiyohi County.
Juhnke, a moderate, campaigned on the strength of his past record, his seniority -- he holds the region's longest tenure in the House -- and his ability to be bipartisan.
Wilhelm's message emphasized taxes, the economy and the need to curb government spending. She carried most of the precincts in southwestern Kandiyohi County, where she has traditionally had a good showing. But Juhnke led in virtually all the rest of the district's 38 precincts, including Willmar and New London.
New London Township and one precinct in the city of Willmar were the only precincts that hadn't reported vote totals by midnight.
Wilhelm acknowledged that it's hard to defeat an incumbent, but said she had "no regrets."
"There's nothing I would have done differently. I was proud of what I did," she said Tuesday night.
In contrast to a bruising campaign two years ago, this year's campaign focused mainly on the issues.
Juhnke said voters appeared to appreciate it. "I think people understood. We ran absolutely zero negative ads," he said.
He was already looking ahead Tuesday night to his first caucus meeting on Thursday.
"We're going to roll up our sleeves and get to work. We're going to have a lot of things to do," he said.
Among the issues at the top of the list are public school funding, rural economic development and bioenergy, he said.
Juhnke also vowed to continue his push on services for veterans, including the possibility of a new veterans' home in Willmar.
"I'm going to take the message down to St. Paul that we have to look at the long term," he said. "It's a time to look forward."