Restoring the center:
Races in Senate District 49
key to control of legislature
From the Minneapolis Labor Review, August 24, 2012
By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor
EDINA — The newly-configured Senate District 49 includes five southwest Minneapolis suburbs where the battle to win a labor-friendly majority in the state legislature could be won or lost. Senate District 49 includes all of Edina, west Bloomington, northeast Eden Prairie and southeast Minnetonka.
This is an area where a majority of voters backed Senator Amy Klobuchar six years ago, but also where hard-right Republicans won the last elections for State Senate and State House.
Both the Senate seat and the two House seats in District 49 are open seats, thanks to retirements and redistricting. The lack of incumbents makes Senate District 49 one of the areas where labor stands good odds of making gains.
The candidates endorsed by the Minnesota AFL-CIO include: Melisa Franzen, Senate District 49; Ron Erhardt, House District 49A; and Paul Rosenthal, House District 49B. All three also have won DFL endorsement.
The Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation has targeted all three races for independent work on behalf of labor’s endorsed candidates.
Coordinated by MRLF field organizer Anne Gabrys, union volunteers and release staff already have been contacting union households in the area.
Gabrys reported that union voters are concerned about jobs and the economy, cuts to education, and the lack of compromise at the legislature. “That’s something we hear on the doors and the phones,” she said. “They want something done. They want compromise. They want things to happen. They’re frustrated that’s not happening.”
Those same concerns and frustrations mirror the sentiments of the general voting public in Senate District 49, Franzen, Erhardt and Rosenthal told the Labor Review. They took time from their own doorknocking to discuss their campaigns.
Senate District 49: Melisa Franzen
“People are frustrated with the state of politics in Minnesota,” said Meilsa Franzen, Senate District 49 candidate “We need to elect people who are willing to work with all sides and are open and responsive.”
“Our legislature hasn’t been doing its job,” she said, pointing to the last two sessions of the legislature. “Creating jobs should be our number one priority.”
She says restoring funds for education and investing in renewable energy will be among her other top concerns.
An attorney working for Target, Franzen is making her first run for public office.
Melisa Franzen website:
House District 49A: Ron Erhardt
“There’s not much left in the center. That’s where decisions get made,” said Ron Erhardt, House District 49A candidate. “With my skills over 18 years, I know how to meet in the middle and get bi-partisan agreement to get things done.”
Erhardt previously served nine terms in the Minnesota House as a Republican. He was one of six courageous Republicans who voted in 2008 to override Governor Pawlenty’s veto of the transportaion bill, a vote which cost Erhardt his Republican endorsement. Erhardt ran in 2008 as an independent but lost. This year he is running with DFL backing.
Ron Erhardt website:
House District 49B: Paul Rosenthal
“This last session of the legislature was the most partisan I’ve ever seen,” said Paul Rosenthal, House District 49B candidate. “People are looking for leadership… They’re tired of the partisanship.”
“I’ve always been one to work across the aisle to get things done,” noted Rosenthal, who won election to the House in 2008 and served one term. He reported that 90 percent of the bills he authored had bi-partisan support. “You have to be able to work together — otherwise you don’t get anywhere.”
Rosenthal seeks to return to the House after losing his 2010 re-election bid. “I’ve been a voice for the middle class.”
Paul Rosenthal website: