ST. PAUL, Minn. -- On the eve of the first day of session for the Minnesota House of Representatives, two lawmakers called it quits. That means special elections will begin soon; one north of the metro, the other, south of the cities.
As expected, Representative Terry Morrow (DFL-St. Peter) turned in his resignation to Governor Dayton Monday afternoon. But later the same day, Representative Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud) turned in his resignation, perhaps, earlier than expected.
"It's not unusual. There are actually vacancies in the legislature every year," Beth Fraser, Director of Government Affairs at the Secretary of State's office, explained. Morrow and Gottwalt got job offers that were too good to refuse. It means two special elections are only days away.
"It means our continued conversations with Minnesotans, as we chose our next representative and I think that's always a good thing, to be in conversations," House Majority Leader and DFL member Erin Murphy of St. Paul explained.
So the Governor has five days to call the special elections, folks will run, there will be primaries, and 40 days after the resignations, there will be two new members in the house. "It's kind of a whirlwind. There's a lot that has to happen within that short period of time," Fraser said. "Turnout is pretty low," she added when asked about the final voting.
The costs of the special elections fall on the counties and cities in which they occur. One county auditor was guessing the special election would cost around $22,000 when ballot and staffing costs were added up. Each house member represents around 39,000 constituents.
While the balance of power in the house cannot be shifted with these two seats, legislative leaders are still paying close attention. "Not exactly what we were planning to do right off the bat. (But) we've got an opportunity, maybe, to pick up a seat, maybe gain one member of our caucus. So this is an interesting opportunity," Republican Deputy House Minority Leader Jenifer Loon of Eden Prairie concluded.
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