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Thanks to redistricting, Eken to seek Senate seat

Kent Eken

When the state redistricting lines were drawn this year, it pitted Reps. Paul Marquart and Kent Eken against one another. But, the two friends have found a way to not have to challenge one another in the upcoming election.

Marquart announced that he will be seeking re-election for the Minnesota House of Representatives seat, and Eken will be seeking the Senate seat that will be left vacant with Keith Langseth's retirement at the end of the year.

"Our first decision was we're not going to run against each other," Marquart said. "We're good friends."

"I've enjoyed serving in the legislature, and I wasn't going to run against Paul -- he's a good friend, a great legislator, and he had already made it clear that he was going to be running for the House," Eken agreed.

After Langseth announced his decision not to seek another term in the Senate, Marquart said it kind of started the wheels turning back in December.

"I asked my constituents to return me to the House because I feel I can be more effective there," Marquart said, "and Kent was interested in running for the Senate, so things just kind of fell into place."

Marquart said the redistricting surprised him and Eken, even though they knew it was always a possibility Clay County could be redistricted with Norman County.

"There was an option for us," Eken said. "We're certainly going to miss Sen. Langseth because of all the great work he's done. He's been an outstanding senator for our area. We're going to miss him greatly, but that opportunity allowed for me to run for the Senate."

Before the redistricting and Langseth's retirement announcement though, he said he hadn't really thought about running for Senate. From maps that he had seen regarding redistricting, he was never in Marquart's or Langseth's districts, so he said he assumed he'd be in Sen. Rod Skoe's district and run for House again.

"I hadn't really even thought about it," he said. "I'm glad to be running for the Senate and just have the opportunity to continue serving the people in this area. Whether it's in the House or the Senate, it's not really a major factor to me. It's just the opportunity to serve was the important thing to me."

"The one good thing about that is that we did have some options because Keith Langseth had already announced he was retiring," Marquart said. "There are some situations where you already have a senator there in the same party, so around the state, there were a lot of people who didn't have that option."

This is Marquart's sixth term in the House, and he said with his experience, especially as chair of the property tax division, it was best for him to stay in the House.

"Having the positions I have, especially on the property tax committee and the tax committee, I feel just gives me a more effective voice for trying to lower property taxes and trying to work on preserving local government aid and even tying to restore the homestead credit."

Currently in his fifth term in the House, Eken said changing from the House to the Senate shouldn't be too much of a change if he gets the open seat. The same issues come before both legislative bodies, and his experience in the House gives him an edge.

"The positions are quite similar and we represent the same areas, so I don't see it as being a very dramatic change," he said.

While he would start out fresh seniority wise in the Senate, he does bring years of House experience with him, he added. "That's a valuable asset, that I've served in the House, so I do have experience with the issues we're dealing with, and also I do have knowledge of the process and that's important to have."

That experience will be more effective to him, other senators and the constituents.

"I'm really looking forward to running alongside Paul on the same team," Eken said. "I've enjoyed serving with him, and it'll be great to serve the same district with him."

In other political redistricting news, Gretchen Hoffman, Vergas, whose seat in the Senate was basically eliminated when the new district lines were drawn, announced Friday morning that she will be seeking Rep. Collin Peter-son's U.S. Congress seat.