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Wendy Reuer, Published November 07 2012

Democrats win all three seats in Minnesota District 4

MOORHEAD – The newly formed District 4, which includes Moorhead and all of Clay County, will have an all-DFL group of lawmakers representing it when the Minnesota Legislature meets next year.

The results Tuesday night mirror statewide results, as the Democratic-Farmer-Laborites won enough seats to wrest control of both legislative chambers from Republicans.

In the District 4 Senate race – which includes Clay and Norman counties and Detroit Lakes – Rep. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, beat Republican Phil Hansen of Detroit Lakes to replace longtime Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, who didn’t seek re-election.

Hansen, a former North Dakota State University football player who played in three Super Bowls with the Buffalo Bills, said Wednesday he was disappointed in the outcome of his race, but he couldn’t say if partisan politics heavily influenced the outcome.

“I know both Republicans and Democrats were surprised at how convincingly (Democrats) took back the House and Senate,” he said.

Hansen said it is too early to tell if he would venture into another election in the future. Eken, who had been in the House since 2002, said reinstating the homestead credit program will be a priority.

The program provided about $538 million in property tax relief over two years to about 95 percent of homeowners. That money was then paid by the state to cities. The loss left many cities having to choose to cut services or raise local property taxes in order to balance budgets. Eken received 52 percent of the vote with Hansen receiving 48 percent in complete but unofficial results.

Redistricting would have forced Eken and Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, to face off in a primary unless one of them ran for Senate. Marquart cruised to a win in District 4B, receiving 65 percent of the votes to Paul Sandman’s 35 percent.

Tuesday marked 55-year-old Marquart’s seventh election. The habitual door-knocker – who said he believes in getting out to meet his constituency even in off-years – said he was also surprised at the shift to DFL control.

“I do think the reason it switched is that voters want the gridlock to end, and they want legislators to focus on issues that are important to them, focus on issues that impact them each and every day,” said Marquart, who represents the large swath of District 4 outside of Moorhead and Oakport Township, which is District 4B. In the 4A House race, Ben Lien, a Moorhead Democrat, beat Travis Reimche, of Moorhead, 55 percent to 45 percent.

Reimche was endorsed by Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, who did not seek re-election after 10 years in the House.

Lien, 29, a financial counselor with The Village Family Services, did not respond to messages seeking comment Wednesday.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530