While the Legislature is still struggling to complete its 2005 business the 2006 political season is already starting to simmer.
No one has formally announced a candidacy for any of the central Minnesota legislative seats but maneuvering is well under way. All of the state Senate and House seats will be on the ballot in November of 2006.
Crow Wing County Commissioner Terry Sluss last week filed his Sluss for Senate Committee with state officials. In mid-April he announced his intent to form the committee, which will allow him to start raising money for a potential campaign for the District 12 Senate seat.
Larry Kellerman of Baxter, who has successfully run campaigns for Crow Wing County sheriff, is listed as chair. Paxie Imsdahl, an unsuccessful candidate for the Crow Wing County Soil and Water Conservation Board in 2004, is treasurer.
Sluss said he expects to make a formal announcement before July 4.
Terry Sluss expects to run for state Senate.
Don Samuelson of Brainerd, who represented central Minnesota for years in both the House and Senate, said Wednesday he was keeping his political options wide open for next year.
"It would be terrible if my name weren't on the ballot somewhere," the DFLer said with a laugh Wednesday. "I guess it's in my blood to serve somewhere. I prefer the Legislature."
He said he would consider running for the District 12 Senate seat, which he narrowly lost to Sen. Paul Koering, R-Fort Ripley, in 2002, or the District 12A House seat, which he lost to Rep. Paul Gazelka, in 2004. Samuelson noted his seniority ranking would be higher if he were to regain his Senate seat.
In an Open Forum published in Thursday's paper, Samuelson responds to criticism of a 1999 tax bill vote he made that revised the state's property tax system. Samuelson said he reluctantly supported the bill to avert a lengthy special session but criticized the property tax changes included in the legislation.
"Maybe the day will come when I can initiate some changes that I think were in error in our property tax system," he wrote.
Samuelson said he could make a decision on running for office in 2006 by late summer or fall.
Koering, the incumbent District 12 senator, repeated his intent to seek the GOP endorsement for the Senate and said he would run in a primary if he didn't receive the party's backing. The first-term senator announced he was gay April 13, stirring speculation he might be challenged in his party. He said a formal announcement could come in April or May.
"I do have very clear intentions of seeking the Republican endorsement," he said.
Another incumbent who is expected to seek re-election is Sen. Dallas Sams, DFL-Staples. Sams, who has undergone treatment for a malignant brain tumor this legislative session, said this week he is planning to run for his Senate seat in 2006.
MIKE O'ROURKE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5860.
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