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Koenen will seek District 17 Senate seat; Falk will run for House

WILLMAR -- Rep. Lyle Koenen, of Clara City, will seek the DFL endorsement for the Senate District 17 seat and fellow DFL Rep. Andrew Falk, of Murdock, will run for the House 17A seat.

Rep. Andrew Falk

WILLMAR -- Rep. Lyle Koenen, of Clara City, will seek the DFL endorsement for the Senate District 17 seat and fellow DFL Rep. Andrew Falk, of Murdock, will run for the House 17A seat.

The two west central Minnesota legislators issued a joint statement Wednesday announcing a mutually reached decision about their political futures.

Falk and Koenen were paired in the same House district because of new redistricting maps released last week.

Koenen said they discussed options, including both seeking endorsement for the House or one of them not running for re-election.

"There was a lot of back and forth," said Koenen in an interview, adding that he had briefly considered moving to a different House district but his family quickly vetoed that idea.

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Some of the di-scussion included the geography of the new district and who might be a better fit for constituents. Koenen said his 10 years of experience in the House, compared to Falk's four years, was also part of the process in deciding who should run for Senate.

After discussing their options, the two friends and colleagues agreed that Falk would seek the new House District 17A seat and Koenen will run for the redrawn Senate District 17 seat.

The new District 17 had paired DFL Sen. Gary Kubly with GOP Sen. Joe Gimse, of Willmar. Kubly is retiring and is not seeking another term after being diagnosed with ALS.

If Koenen receives the endorsement this spring, he would be in an election matchup with Gimse in November.

No one else has formally announced an intention to run for the Senate District 17 seat, although there's been talk that Larry Rice, a Democrat from Willmar who ran unsuccessfully against Gimse two years ago, may run again.

Koenen said he is making no assumptions that he will win the endorsement of delegates to run as the DFL Senate nominee, but said if he was elected to the Senate he would look to Kubly as a role model.

"Sen. Kubly set a great example for a legislator that I can follow," Koenen said. "I'm honored to run for the seat Sen. Kubly has represented with integrity for the last decade."

Koenen said he and Falk are looking forward to the new election challenge. "It'll be a good experience," Koenen said. "We're both going to have to meet a lot of new people."

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The new Senate District 17 includes all of Kandiyohi, Swift and Chippewa counties and much of Renville County.

The new House 17A District includes all of Swift and Chippewa counties, the southwestern townships in Kandiyohi County and a portion of Renville County.

"Rep. Koenen and I are deeply committed to creating jobs and strengthening our rural economy. We share the same rural values and will be a very effective team in the House and Senate," Falk said.

Both Falk and Koenen are lifelong residents and have farmed in the area. They have worked closely at the Legislature on rural issues including economic development, agriculture, veterans affairs, health care, energy, education and property tax relief, according to a news release.

Falk, who is a farmer, soybean seed processor and is involved with developing renewable energy projects, is the only DFLer at this time to announce his candidacy for the House 17A seat.

Republican Tim Miller, of Prinsburg, said this week he will seek his party's endorsement for the House 17A post.

Miller, an Army Reserve veteran, works at the University of Minnesota's Mid-Central Research and Outreach Center in Willmar. He operates a consulting business that specializes in project management for agriculture and renewable energy businesses.

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at clange@wctrib.com or 320-894-9750
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