Landslide or no landslide, the newly elected District 12B state representative, Greg Blaine, had chores waiting for him in the dairy barn this morning.
The Little Falls area dairy farmer became the first Republican to represent the Morrison, Cass and Crow Wing County district in almost 30 years, succeeding DFLer Steve Wenzel, who resigned to take a post as state director of rural development with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Blaine defeated DFLer Helen McLennan 60 percent to 39 percent, or 6,602-4,243, as an impressive 48 percent of District 12B voters turned out for Tuesday's special election.
The Republican speculated he personally door-knocked at about 9,500 of the district's estimated 11,000 households.
"We did well," Blaine said this morning. "I think it's just a testament to the hard work we put in. We worked our tails off and we had good people."
The candidate and his supporters celebrated his victory at the Linden Hill Conference Center in Little Falls, where he took congratulatory phone calls from St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman and former U.S. Sen. Rod Grams. Attending his celebration were state House Speaker Steve Sviggum, State. Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, and Rep. Dale Walz, R-Brainerd.
Although he's never served in elective office, Blaine said the voters related to him and his real life experiences. He said district residents place importance on their values, ethics and morals.
"I'm a common sense, hard-working individual," he said. "I understand what concerns the people of this district have because they're the same things that concern me."
Blaine, 40, said he won all but four of the district's 45 precincts and lost those by a combined total of 19 votes. Garrison and Garrison Townships were two of the districts he didn't carry, he said.
McLennan, 50, a district manager for the Soil and Water Conservation District in Little Falls, said she was outspent considerably and was unhappy with some of the campaign tactics of some Republican supporters of Blaine. She said she is pro-life but was painted as not being pro-life by some opponents.
She said she was hurt by the defection of some DFLers, but those people were probably Democrats only because of their relation or association with Wenzel.
McLennan said she enjoyed meeting many new people and felt good about her campaign but didn't know if she wanted to submit herself to another such campaign in the future.
At the end of the last legislative session Republicans held the House majority by a 69-65 margin.
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