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Published May 31 2012

Rep. Lanning says he won't seek re-election to Minn. House

MOORHEAD – Longtime Moorhead Rep. Morrie Lanning, who played a key role in passage of a Minnesota Vikings stadium bill this spring, announced Thursday that he would not seek re-election to the legislative seat he’s held for 10 years.

Lanning, a Republican, has served in elected office for 38 years, starting as a city leader in Moorhead.

He was first elected to the Moorhead City Council in 1973. Six years later, in 1979, Moorhead voters promoted Lanning to mayor, an office he held for 22 years.

Lanning was elected in 2002 to the Minnesota House, representing District 9A. He served five terms in that seat, from which he is now retiring.

Lanning, 67, said he wants to spend more time with his family after being in “perpetual campaign mode” for nearly four decades.

But he vowed this retirement isn’t a permanent exit from public life or service.

“Be assured you will not have seen the last of Morrie Lanning,” he said before an audience of family members, Moorhead officials and local media. “I hope I’m done campaigning for a while, but I’m sure other opportunities might come my way.”

Lanning did not reveal specifically what those opportunities might be.

Lanning led the charge in the House in crafting the $975 million Vikings stadium bill legislators passed after months of contentious and fragile debate.

He listed the bill as among his accomplishments, calling it “probably the most visible” achievement he has as a legislator. He’d been pushing for a new stadium for seven years before the issue came to a head this spring.

“Most people thought we had no chance of getting this done, but we proved the skeptics wrong,” Lanning said. “I hope it sends a message to people that by working across the aisle, treating people with respect and working professionally, you can get things done for the people of the state of Minnesota.”

Also among the accomplishments Lanning cited: funding flood control and mitigation projects, improving funding for education and infrastructure, providing property tax relief and building Target Field for the Minnesota Twins.

“I hope I’m remembered for the way I went about my work, the way I got things done and worked across the aisle to get things done for people in my district,” Lanning said.

Moorhead city officials said they felt bittersweet about Lanning’s retirement. They praised his dedication and service to the community.

“He’s been a tremendous public servant,” said Councilwoman Brenda Elmer, who represents Lanning’s former district in the 3rd Ward.

“The reason Morrie has been so effective is that he has the experience, the reputation and the ability to get things done by reaching across the aisle,” Elmer said. “He will be sorely missed from the city’s perspective.”

Mayor Mark Voxland said Lanning has been great to work with because he understands the issues and knows Moorhead’s needs.

“We’re going to miss that type of personality and that type of person who can get all that done,” Voxland said.

Lanning’s retirement, as well as that of longtime Democratic Sen. Keith Langseth, means the Moorhead area will have mostly freshman representation in St. Paul next session.

Democratic Rep. Paul Marquart is seeking a seventh term this year to the District 9B seat.

Voxland said the loss of Lanning’s tenure and influence could be a challenge for Moorhead and Clay County.

“It’s really going to be a hard thing to get over,” Voxland said. “Definitely, seniority is going to be on the short side.”

Lanning said he knows of a candidate who plans to announce a bid for his seat during a news conference scheduled for today.

Voxland predicted strong contenders from either party would likely jump in the race to replace Lanning, including possibly some sitting Moorhead City Council members.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541