District 10B backs Lueck for 3rd term in Minnesota House
It's a third term for the Aitkin-based cattle rancher—a chance to see a number of old projects to fruition and, with new faces in high offices, perhaps a chance to foster stronger bonds in St. Paul.
Incumbent state Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, trumped DFL challenger Phil Yetzer by a margin of 65.6 percent to 34 percent as of 1 a.m. Roughly 97 percent of precincts had reported in by that time.
Looking at a third term, Lueck said it's a chance to see a number of initiatives he's helmed come to fruition—specifically the state recreation area on the Cuyuna Range comes to mind, he noted, though he also pointed to state infrastructure, health care and the needs of the elderly as focal points of his tenure in St. Paul.
"That's the real job. People think your real job is down in St. Paul," Lueck told the Dispatch during a phone interview. "Your real job is defending the poor people in the district from state agencies that can't see what's going on 130 miles away."
A new DFL majority in the House doesn't change that mission. And, with news that Democratic candidate Tim Walz is the governor-elect, Lueck said he was excited to work with a different chief executive than Gov. Mark Dayton.
The Walz administration, with its campaign platform of bipartisanship and proactive dialogues across the aisle, has yet to be seen—but it certainly looks promising, Lueck said.
"I'm sure gonna take him up on it," Lueck said, giving a laugh. "I look forward to a new governor that hopefully will be a lot more cooperative."
For his part, Yetzer pointed to the success of DFLers and Democrats across the nation and in the state—while his candidacy faltered, the overarching mission of progressives is taking steps forward.
"My district might be a little more conservative than some," Yetzer said during a phone interview early Wednesday morning. "We'll take our new majority at the (Minnesota) House and Dale will be in the minority. Hopefully, he can work with them."
Instead, Yetzer pointed to a number of initiatives—particularly protections of patients with pre-existing conditions—as evidence DFLers were able to pressure Republican incumbents into backing policies they wouldn't otherwise. Political losses aside, it means people are getting better representation in St. Paul, he said.
Remarking, dryly, at a forum at Central Lakes College in late October, being labeled a Republican was something he was "stuck with"—irrespective of his personal views or track record—Lueck often extolled the virtues of bipartisanship. His candidacy rested in a preference for careful legislation and a kind of case-by-case pragmatism.
If Lueck wanted to keep the discussion closer to home, Yetzer wouldn't allow it. During the campaign, Yetzer pressed Lueck early, often framing their differences in a national scope—lakes area environmentalism in terms of global climate change, health care in terms of Obamacare, diversity in terms of Native American community issues.
Local races typically have a more cordial, respectful tone—and to be sure, Yetzer and Lueck's race was downright cuddly compared to many state and national spats—but the District 10B contest featured an edge largely absent from similar showdowns in District 10A, District 9B and other neighboring districts.
As the calendar shifted closer and closer to Election Day, Yetzer increasingly pushed Lueck to not only answer for his own voting record, but seemingly for his party as a whole. This led to more than a few testy moments between the Aitkin beef cattle farmer and his opponent from Fairfield Township.