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By Jana Peterson
Pine Knot News 

Lourey leaves Senate for Human Services; special election set for Feb. 5


January 4, 2019

Minnesota Senator Tony Lourey (DFL-Kerrick) is leaving his District 11 seat to become Commissioner of the State Department of Human Services.

Governor-elect Tim Walz announced Lourey’s appointment Thursday, Jan. 3 at a dairy farm in Hastings, along with several other commission appointments. His selection of Lourey was not a surprise to political insiders, as Lourey served as chair of the Health and Human Finance Committee 2013 through 2016 and also played a central role in the state’s efforts to expand health care coverage.

Of course, Lourey’s appointment has also sparked a fast and furious race for his senate seat.

Gov. Mark Dayton announced a special election to be held Feb. 5 to fill Lourey’s seat. Minnesota Senate District 11 includes Carlton and Pine Counties and portions of Kanabec and St. Louis Counties. A primary election is set for Jan. 22. Candidates have until 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8 to file for the race.

As of Friday afternoon, five candidates had entered the race, and both major parties will hold primary elections.

For the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party:

Lourey’s son, Stu Lourey, was the first to announce his candidacy for the District 11 seat — the same seat Becky Lourey (Tony’s mom and Stu’s grandmother) held 1997-2006. His dad has held the seat since 2006. Stu Lourey worked as an aide for U.S. Sen. Tina Smith and former U.S. Sen. Al Franken.

Moose Lake resident Michelle Lee has also announced her candidacy. A retired broadcast journalist, Lee ran for Congress in the Eighth Congressional District in the 2018 primary election, but was defeated by Joe Radinovich. Lee did, however, win the majority of primary votes in Carlton County.

Two Republican candidates have also announced.

Esko’s Justin Krych, a deputy chair with the Eighth Congressional District Republican Party and occasional Pine Knot News columnist, is running.

State Rep. Jason Rarick, who represents House District 11B, a seat he’s held since 2015. District 11B includes nearly all of Pine County and about half of Kanabec County.

Other parties

John “Sparky” Birrenbach, of the Legal Marijuana Now party, also announced his candidacy.

According to the Secretary of State’s website, only two candidates had actually filed by 4:30 p.m. Friday, Birrenbach and Lee.

Candidates may file for this office with the auditor of Carlton, Kanabec, Pine, or Saint Louis Counties, or at the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State in Saint Paul.


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