41B: PAUL ROSENTHAL
A division in GOP ranks in 2008 created an opening for DFLer Paul Rosenthal to win in ordinarily Republican-leaning south Edina and west Bloomington. The question for 41B voters is whether moderate, hard-working Rosenthal is a keeper, regardless of his party label.
We think he is. That's so despite the qualifications and party-unifying capacity of Republican challenger Pat Mazorol, a vice president at Bethel University in Arden Hills.
Rosenthal, 50, an entrepreneur with a background in urban planning and real estate, impressed us two years ago with an independent streak and sound ideas. Two years on, he has buttressed those ideas with confidence and knowledge, particularly about education. Though he's quiet by nature, he does his homework, and it shows.
Mazorol, 61, is new to his Bethel position after a career as an attorney and manager of trust operations for Norwest (now Wells Fargo), Reliastar and Securian. His interview left us wondering whether his new job affords him time to become well-informed about state issues. About that, voters have no worries with Rosenthal. Also on the 41B ballot is the Independence Party's Naomi Babcock, who did not respond to interview invitations.
56A: JULIE BUNN
Lake Elmo/Bayport area residents are fortunate to have a person of DFLer Julie Bunn's caliber representing them. In two terms, the Stanford University Ph.D. economist has emerged as a champion of health care reform, sensible tax policies and environmental protection. She deserves to return to office.
A former economics professor, Bunn, 52, brings an analytical eye to the state's most difficult issues. She sponsored bills that made the state corporate income tax more competitive and provided research and development tax credits to businesses -- a record that helped her win Minnesota Chamber of Commerce endorsement this year. She also helped establish bioscience and nanotechnology development funds.
Bunn has two challengers, including a rematch with Republican Kathy Lohmer, 56, an anti-abortion activist, home school cooperative founder and former medical office administrator. Lohmer's "no new taxes'' approach to governing is too rigid at a time of major fiscal crisis in state government.
Also on the ballot is independent Jim Martin, 29, a self-employed trade contractor and computer consultant. His candidacy appears focused on "no taxation without representation,'' including changing the Metropolitan Council from an appointed to an elected board. While that idea may have merit, it's too narrow a foundation for a legislative bid.
56B: MARSHA SWAILS
A goodly number of teachers serve in the Minnesota House. But few have exhibited the independence and courage of DFL Rep. Marsha Swails. This 22-year teacher at Woodbury High School took on her own union to avoid burdening taxpayers with more teacher pension costs. She also favored alternative teacher licensure over firm union opposition.
In addition, Swails demonstrated persistence and savvy in a four-year struggle to win approval of Prairie St. John's mental health hospital for youth in Woodbury. She wouldn't let go of the project in the face of powerful opposition because she believed its services can avert teen suicides.
That kind of lawmaking warrants a third term. Swails, 58, is in a tough reelection campaign in a historically Republican district. Her GOP opponent is Andrea Kieffer, 46, a community volunteer whose experiences include living in Budapest and Singapore, where her husband, a 3M manager, was based.
Kieffer says she'd be an advocate for local control and small businesses. Maybe so, but Swails is a founder of the bipartisan Small Business Caucus and is a leader in bipartisan efforts to eliminate state barriers to local government efficiency initiatives. Swails deserves reelection.
57A: JOHN KRIESEL
The Editorial Board's conversation with political newcomer John Kriesel, Republican contender for the open House seat in the Cottage Grove area, may have been the most uplifting hour spent with any candidate this year.
Kriesel, 29, was a Minnesota Army National Guard staff sergeant who lost both of his legs in Iraq in 2006. The lessons he learned after that life-changing event give him a perspective on political discord and Minnesotans' obligations to each other that commands attention and respect. Kriesel's voice would be welcome in the Minnesota House.
District 57A is normally DFL territory, and DFLer Jen Peterson is a solid candidate to succeed retiring Rep. Karla Bigham. Peterson, 44, is serving her first term on the Cottage Grove City Council after years as a recreational therapy coordinator in a senior care center and as an advocate for child support and domestic violence victims at the Capitol.
But Kriesel is something special. A gifted communicator who works as a marketing contractor for the Minnesota National Guard, he exudes commitment to public service and compassion for the vulnerable. He's resistant to tax increases, but just as resistant to cutting the government services that help people succeed. He sees no reason why the sense of common purpose he helped create in his military unit can't be generated among legislators to solve state problems. More of his spirit is needed at the Capitol.