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Don Davis, State Capitol Bureau, Published June 23 2009

Demmer, Zellers vie for top Minnesota House Republican spot

ST. PAUL – A rural southern Minnesotan and a Twin Cities suburban lawmaker who grew up in rural North Dakota are the main contenders to become Minnesota House Republican leader.

Republicans meet tonight in St. Paul to elect a leader, with just 47 of the House’s 134 members in their party. Tonight’s vote is important because it sets the tone for the 2010 election, when Republicans hope to gain seats on Democratic-Farmer-Laborites.

Reps. Randy Demmer of Hayfield and Kurt Zellers of Maple Grove are the two announced contenders, but Republicans say other names may crop up during closed-door debate.

“We need to make significant gains,” said Rep. Dean Urdahl of Grove City. “It is possible to take the majority, but realistically we have to make significant gains this time.”

Rep. Morrie Lanning of Moorhead suggested that the winner can “play a key role in winning back the majority. ... It is very important because the minority leader is the face and the voice of the caucus.”

The two candidates with rural roots are vying to replace Rep. Marty Seifert of Marshall, who decided to leave the position to concentrate on running for governor.

Zellers, raised on a farm near Devils Lake, N.D., considers himself one of the most conservative Republicans in the House. He has emphasized lowering taxes, especially for businesses.

He is a University of North Dakota graduate who worked for Rod

Grams’ successful 1994 U.S. Senate campaign, then worked in Grams’ Senate office. He also worked on Norm Coleman’s 2002 Senate campaign.

Demmer lost a Republican contest for southern Minnesota’s U.S. House seat last year. He worked for his father’s implement dealer, farmed and ran other businesses.

Zellers and Demmer have been in the House since 2003.


Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. He can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or ddavis@forumcomm.com