Republicans keep solid hold on District 17
Republicans kept a solid hold on District 17 with strong victories in the state Senate and House seats 17A and 17B races.
WILLMAR — State Legislative District 17 remained solidly in the Republican camp as voters seem to have returned incumbents Andrew Lang, R-Olivia, to the state Senate while also electing Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, and Dave Baker, R-Willmar, to new terms in the state House seats for District 17A and 17B, respectively.
Voters supported Lang’s bid for a second term by an unofficial count of 26,745 votes to 12,858 votes for his opponent, Fernando Alvarado, DFL-Willmar, at the deadline for this edition when approximately 90 percent of precincts were reporting.
The precinct reports filed Tuesday night are not necessarily complete as Minnesota will be counting valid absentee ballots for another week.
Alvarado is a Willmar City Council member and insurance representative who made his first bid for state office.
The incumbent is a helicopter pilot in the Minnesota National Guard and for North Memorial Health Air Care. Lang defeated Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City, to serve in the senate in 2016.
Lang said he was pleased by the strong voter support, and is looking forward to returning to work. There’s plenty of work ahead, he said. There will be a large budget deficit facing legislators in the spring. A desire to help businesses recover and get the economy back on track after the COVID-19 pandemic are among his priorities, as well as finishing up work related to the closing of the Benson biomass project and its impact on businesses.
Both Lang and Alvarado voiced their appreciation for one another. The race was marked by many areas where they agreed.
Alvarado said he had hoped to win more support, but noted that this was a difficult year to campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic. His strength is his personal rapport with people, and that’s difficult to convey on a digital level, he said.
In the District 17A race, Miller held off a challenge from Benjamin Dolan, DFL-Appleton, who made his first bid for public office. Unofficial results at deadline showed Miller with a 11,838 to 5,786 lead over his DFL rival when just over 86 percent of the precincts were reporting results, though they are not complete tallies as absentee votes may still arrive.
Miller said he’s worked hard for the district, and this endorsement of voters helps him know that he is on track in advocating for it. “In the end, it’s the voters who decide,” he said.
He also thanked his opponent, stating that you get better when you are challenged, and Dolan offered that.
Dolan said the campaign and pandemic have all made the last few months an emotional roller coaster for him, but he has no regrets about taking his first steps into politics. He said the voters have decided, but he remains committed to staying active for the area.
Miller, a small business owner, will return for his fourth term. He upset incumbent Andrew Falk in 2014 and fended off a second challenge from Falk in 2016 before holding off another well-known DFL challenger, Lyle Koenen, in 2018.
Dolan is a law clerk in the Eighth Judicial District.
In the District 17B race, Baker fended off challenger Logan Kortgard, DFL-Willmar, a fourth-year student at the University of Minnesota.
Voters gave Baker the nod by a 14,990 to 6,194 count over Kortgard, according to unofficial results at deadline. All precincts had submitted a report, but that is not a final tally.
Baker said he was honored by the voter support, but also noted that there is hard work ahead. The state is facing a major deficit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Baker said he doesn’t want to raise taxes, nor does he want to cut services. “We’re really going to have to squeeze the turnips here,” he said.
He said the win feels much like his first election win, when he won by a narrow 214-vote margin, and immediately realized the magnitude of the challenge ahead of him.
Kortgard said he was pleased to do as well as he could with a grassroots campaign. He said he’s learned from his first step into politics, and it’s only helped him build the framework for future efforts in serving the public.
Baker, a longtime Willmar business owner, returns for a fourth term. He upset incumbent Mary Sawatzky by the narrow margin in 2014 and held off a second challenge by the Willmar DFL’er in 2016. He won re-election over first-time officer seeker Anita Flowe, DFL-Willmar, in 2018.
The Republicans have held both the 17A and 17B House seats since the 2014 election, when the current office holders ousted DFL incumbents.