District 38B: Patti Anderson

Republican Rep. Matt Dean's retirement after 14 years in the Minnesota House has prompted a comeback bid by Patti Anderson, a Republican who as Patti Anderson Awada was elected to a single term as state auditor in 2002. Residents of the northeast-suburban district should be pleased she's back. Anderson is better prepared for legislative service than DFL contender Ami Wazlawik.

Anderson, 52, has been out of office for a dozen years. But she has worked in and around politics and government for much of her adult life, including stints as mayor and City Council member in Eagan, state commissioner of employee relations and a member of the Republican National Committee. In 2010 she ran unsuccessfully first for governor, then for state auditor. More recently, she purchased five European Wax Centers in the metro area, with 80 employees.

Philosophically, Anderson qualifies as a libertarian; she once headed the Minnesota Free Market Institute. She's also a pragmatist who understands that governing requires deal making by people with opposing views, that market forces alone don't produce satisfactory results in health care and education, and that infrastructure is a government responsibility.

Wazlawik, 32, is seeking the District 38B seat for the second time; she garnered 43 percent of the vote against Dean in 2016. She's strongly drawn to public service, as evidenced by a background that includes varied public-affairs volunteer work, AmeriCorps service and a master's degree in public policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. But Wazlawik's idealism has not been tempered by service in local government or the private sector. That's Anderson's edge.

District 42A: Randy Jessup

Elected in 2016 by a spare 125-vote margin in a district carried by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Republican Rep. Randy Jessup kept a relatively low profile during his first term. He says he's ready to raise his politically moderate voice in a second term. He deserves that opportunity.

Jessup, 57, is a chemical engineer by profession who also has worked in corporate marketing and owns four UPS stores in the Twin Cities. He's a systemic thinker who wants to explore calendar and procedural changes that would lessen the likelihood of a budget-setting impasse and an ensuing government shutdown. He's so serious about representing the views of his Shoreview area constituents that he went door-to-door in a nonelection year to sample opinion.

He's also an independent thinker, willing to align with DFLers on environmental protection and education improvement. Unlike most Republican candidates for the Legislature this year, Jessup wants to continue the health care provider tax that is due to sunset at the end of 2019 and that finances health care access for low-income Minnesotans.

His DFL challenger is Kelly Moller, 45, a first-time candidate and an assistant Hennepin County attorney and victims rights advocate. She would make a positive contribution to the Legislature on criminal justice matters, including state measures aimed at gun violence prevention. More exposure to a wider range of state issues would make her a stronger candidate in the future.

District 44B: Patty Acomb

Legislators with prior service in nonpartisan local government are often strong performers at the State Capitol. That's the experience that three-term Minnetonka City Council member Patty Acomb would bring if she's elected to an open Minnetonka seat. She gets our nod over Republican Gary Porter to succeed retiring DFL Rep. Jon Applebaum.

DFLer Acomb, 53, is knowledgeable not only about the many ways state and local governments interact, but also about natural resource management, environmental protection and the coming clean energy revolution. Her career included staff positions at the state Department of Natural Resources and Hennepin County Environmental Services; she has also worked on energy policy for the National League of Cities. As a breast cancer survivor, she also has a keen interest in health care policy.

Her candidacy was motivated by dismay over the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting. Acomb's family owns guns and enjoys hunting. She aims to strike a balance between protection of recreational use of firearms and prevention of mass shootings.

Her opponent also has experience in elective office — in North Dakota. Porter, 70, moved to Plymouth from Fargo early last year after the death of his wife and the sale of his business, Boppa's Bagels. He served two terms in the North Dakota House in the 1990s, ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House and served four years as executive director of the North Dakota Republican Party.

Porter would bring fresh perspective to Minnesota policies. He's appalled by Twin Cities traffic and says — unlike most of this state's Republicans — that he would support a gas tax increase as a "last resort" to improve highways. But he does not seem ready to hit the ground running in St. Paul. Acomb does.

District 48A: Laurie Pryor

One good term deserves another for DFL Rep. Laurie Pryor of Minnetonka. Elected to public office for the first time in 2016, Pryor, 61, has been a conscientious and at times independent voice for her west-suburban district. She has worked hard to maintain personal contact with her constituents, building on years of school, community and political volunteer activism.

Those relationships have informed her thinking on issues, she said. For example, she's not as keen as some in her party to back a gas tax increase for transportation, and would want any new money earmarked for specific projects. "People don't trust where the money is going," she said. She's cautious about abrupt or sweeping changes in health care and sensitive to their implications for hospitals. Her husband, Jon, is CEO of Hennepin County Medical Center.

Pryor's opponent is Republican Ellen Cousins, 56, a marketing and sales professional who is making her first bid for elective office, though she served a stint on the appointive Minnetonka Economic Development Authority board. Her website bio indicates that she favors lower taxes and limited government. Citing a busy schedule, Cousins declined our invitation for an interview.