Republican state Rep. Jeff Howe on Tuesday entered a special election race that will determine which political party controls the Minnesota Senate.
Former Sen. Michelle Fischbach previously held the St. Cloud-area seat, but resigned last week and was sworn in as lieutenant governor. That left the Senate with an even split of 33 DFLers and 33 Republicans.
A special election for her old seat will be held Nov. 6, the same date as the general election. Howe, who lives in Rockville, Minn., is the first to announce his candidacy. It will be the only state Senate seat on the ballot this November.
A DFLer has not yet entered the race, which is in a GOP-leaning district. But Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk has previously said DFLers have a strong candidate waiting in the wings.
Talk of a special election has loomed large since the end of last year, when Gov. Mark Dayton appointed then-Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to the U.S. Senate seat previously held by Al Franken. Fischbach, who was Senate president, automatically ascended to the lieutenant governor post at that time but argued she could simultaneously hold her state Senate seat.
Democrats disagreed and sued to try to remove her but were unsuccessful.
Howe is a three-term state representative. He has 38 years of military experience and spent 27 years serving at several fire departments in various positions, from firefighter to chief, according to a news release.
“My whole career has been about service and today I am taking the knowledge and experience gained in the Minnesota House to a broader level of service in the Senate,” Howe said in a statement.