Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett
SHOREVIEW, Minn. -- Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett's been involved in some form of public service for nearly half a century, but that streak may come to an end in January.
Bennett placed third in Tuesday's nonpartisan primary, eliminating him from the running for the District One seat he's held since 1997.
"To paraphrase what Robert Frost said, life goes on," Bennett told KARE Wednesday. "I'm going to take a little time. Get to know my family again."
Bennett worked as a police officer in St. Paul from 1964 to 1990. During that time he spent 12 years in the state legislature. He served four years as U.S. Marshal for the region, before joining the Ramsey County Board 16 years ago.
In Tuesday's balloting Bennett missed the cut by only 113 votes, placing behind Frank Mabley and Blake Huffman. Former Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher placed last in his attempt at a political comeback.
Bennett was front and center throughout much of 2011, when the Vikings announced they planned to build their new stadium at the site of the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant in Arden Hills.
Huffman led an effort to change the county charter, hoping to block a proposed local option sales tax earmarked for the stadium. Bennett and fellow county commissioners pitched the tax as a way to finance the local share the project.
But state lawmakers ruled out the use of a local sales tax before the stadium bill ever made to the committee stage. And they opted to place the new sports complex at the site of the Metrodome in Minneapolis, rather than the Arden Hills site.
Despite those fact, Bennett undoubtedly still paid a price at the ballot box for taking a lead on the stadium plan.
"That was a major issue, but it was not the reason I lost the race," Bennett asserted. "The reason I lost the race is that most people didn't realize there was a primary. Only one out of 10 people voted, which tells me the media didn't do a good job of getting the word out to people."
Most of the media attention went instead to two high profile congressional primaries in other parts of the state. Rick Nolan won the DFL primary in the 8th District, while Allen Quist captured the GOP nomination in 1st District.
Bennett is still holding onto the hope that the Arden Hills site can be transformed into a mixed use development. That would give him some solace, the feeling that the stadium push wasn't a total waste of time an political capital.
"Governor Dayton said he'd try to secure the funding we need to finish the clean-up of that area and start developing it," Bennett said.
"I mean we're talking about an area twice the size of Fort Lauderdale!"
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