District 37: Alice Johnson
This page admired first-term GOP Sen. Pam Wolf's attempts to amend the state's teacher tenure laws to incorporate performance considerations. A teacher herself, she lights up as she talks about increasing local control of education and promptly paying back the IOUs the state owes school districts.
But Wolf, 48, exhibits shaky command of other issues. And she has a challenger with a proven record of accomplishment -- DFLer Alice Johnson, 71, who spent 14 years in the state House after a stint on the Spring Lake Park City Council. Our close call goes to Johnson.
Wolf's long suit is also Johnson's. The latter rose to chair the House K-12 Finance panel before stepping down from the Legislature in 2000. We wish Johnson was more supportive of teacher tenure reform. But we admire Johnson's data-driven approach to education and other state policy complexities, and her commitment to engineering the kind of bipartisan compromises she once did with Republican Gov. Arne Carlson.
Johnson would bring something that will be in short supply in next year's Senate -- memory of service at a time when state government worked well. That may be the best reason to elect her.
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District 44: Sen. Terri Bonoff
Sen. Terri Bonoff is introducing herself this fall to 7,000 new constituents, thanks to redistricting's reconfiguration of the political geography in Minnetonka and Eden Prairie. Those new constituents should know that in Bonoff, they have the opportunity to be represented by one of the Legislature's finest.
Bonoff, 55, is an exceptional lawmaker -- hardworking, personable, moderate-minded, results-oriented. She is deputy leader of her caucus, yet is independent enough to stand apart from other DFLers on teacher tenure reform and work with conservative Republicans to produce more efficient government operations.
Her endorsements by both business groups and organized labor attest to her skill as a uniter. Her effectiveness on a host of major bills while serving in the Senate minority attests to the esteem in which she is held on both sides of the partisan aisle.
There's irony in her matchup with Republican challenger David Gaither. He was her Senate predecessor. His appointment to serve GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty as chief of staff in 2005 -- a short-lived assignment -- cut short his only Senate term and led to her special-election victory. His most notable legislative achievement was sponsorship of a bill authorizing the carrying of concealed handguns.
Gaither, 55, has spent the past five years as executive director of the adult-learning International Education Center. He touts the value of his executive experience. But that would be a poor trade for Bonoff's proven ability, plus seniority sufficient to make her a major player next session. District 44 voters will do the whole state a good turn if they return her to St. Paul.
To read more of the Editorial Board's endorsements, go here.