ST. PAUL -- Don Samuelson knows both the highs and lows that elections dish out.
Over the last few decades, Samuelson won 14 primary or general elections, earning him six terms in the Minnesota House and six in the Senate. But residents of the Brainerd area turned him back four times, too, with the most recent coming in Tuesday's 143-vote loss to three-time Republican rival Paul Koering.
"You think you'd get used to it. But this one hurts a little more," Samuelson said Friday. "In my mind, it was going to be my last term. But you'd like to go out on your own terms."
1 Independence Party member
8 DFL freshmen (1 woman and 7 men)
13 Republican freshmen (4 women and 9 men)
30 Republican freshmen (7 women and 23 men)
13 DFL freshmen (1 woman and 12 men)
Samuelson was one of 16 Senate and House incumbents beaten this year -- all but two of whom were Democrats.
Their defeats and retirements by other seasoned officeholders will contribute to a new crop of 58 legislators who don't have prior experience within the Capitol's ornate chambers. That amounts to nearly 29 percent of the 201 seats in the Legislature.
The Class of 2002 in the 134-member House includes 43 people elected for the first time. In the Senate, there are 21 new members, although six have served at least one term in the House. The total turnover is the highest since 1982.
Republicans enter the next session with an 82-52 majority in the House. The Senate remains in DFL hands by a 35-31 margin, with one independent.
Like any year, the incoming legislators will have a lot to digest. Sen. Len Price, a 20-year veteran defeated Tuesday, still remembers his freshman year.
"Every meeting was like a course in graduate school," said Price, DFL-Woodbury. "There was so many new things thrown at you, so many things you had to learn."
But the courses will be much more difficult in 2003, when the Legislature's chief task will be dealing with a projected deficit that could amount to 10 percent of the two-year, $30 billion budget.
Even those who have been around for awhile will notice big changes.
In the House, at least half of the committees will get new chairmen, including the Ways and Means Committee, which reviews all tax and spending bills. Similar shuffling will occur in the Senate, although there has been talk of condensing the number of committees because there are fewer senior members to lead them.
Samuelson and Price each dispensed the same bit of advice to the newcomers: spend more time listening than speechmaking, at least initially.
Samuelson said he didn't make his first floor speech until 1970 -- a full year into his first House term. Today's legislators don't have as much patience, he said.
"Everyone wants to be a talker," he said.
Samuelson's persistent foe, Koering, ran in part on the theme that it's time for new ideas. He said he understands the learning curve will be steep. But, he said, "If I didn't think I was up to the job, I wouldn't have run for it."
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