District 49: Melisa Franzen

State Rep. Keith Downey represents a hard right turn from Edina's tradition of sending moderate Republicans to St. Paul. Through four years in office, he has been among the House GOP's most outspoken conservatives.

His heavyhanded proposals to shrink the state workforce and limit the scope of collective bargaining have earned him the enmity of public employee unions. He might have more to show for those largely futile efforts had he chosen to collaborate with unions rather than clash with them to achieve his goals.

Downey, 51, now seeks to succeed Edina GOP Sen. Geoff Michel in the Senate. He seems unlikely to change his ways. "I'm willing to be the bad guy," he told us.

Fortunately, his rival is a moderate in keeping with Edina tradition. Melisa Franzen, 32, may be the year's most impressive DFL newcomer. She comes to politics by way of Target Corp., where she has been a government affairs attorney.

Unlike Downey, Franzen strongly supports the proposed Southwest Corridor light-rail line. Unlike Downey, she calls for creation of Minnesota's own health insurance purchasing exchange. Unlike Downey, she opposes the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Unlike Downey, she supports fair taxation of Internet sales. She's on the pro-business side of each of those questions.

This contest looks to be the biggest-spending legislative dogfight of the year. The winner is headed for high visibility at the Capitol in the next four years. We think Franzen is more apt to make her constituents proud.

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District 57: Greg Clausen

Recently retired educators often bring a needed long-term perspective to legislative service. Greg Clausen, a recently retired Rosemount High School principal, would fit that pattern if the DFL candidate is elected to fill the open Senate seat in Apple Valley and Rosemount.

Clausen, 65, spent 40 years as a teacher, coach or principal. He knows how to manage public money. He's seen economic and demographic changes and their consequences firsthand, and knows how to adjust public programs to accommodate them. He's acquired the habits of teamwork and consensus-building.

He easily gets our nod because GOP candidate Pat Hall declined our request for an interview. He was the only candidate for the Legislature to do so this season.

Hall, 58, is a clergyman who founded True Light Covenant Church in Minneapolis in 2007. On his website, he embraces GOP orthodoxy -- reduced spending and taxes, parental control of education, an end to legal abortion. Voters seeking a more open-minded approach to state policy will find much to like in Clausen.


To read more of the Editorial Board's endorsements, go here.