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Simonson says he’ll run for Reinert’s Senate seat

Erik Simonson

The race is on to replace Roger Reinert in the Minnesota Senate.

State Rep. Erik Simonson of Duluth on Sunday became the first candidate to declare his intention to run for the District 7 seat that represents most of the city, after Reinert announced he would not seek re-election in 2016.

As first reported in Sunday’s News Tribune, Reinert — first elected to the Senate in 2010 — said he would not run in 2016 in part to allow more time to “be really involved and present” in other areas of his life. He was married in 2015, recently was promoted to lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, teaches at Lake Superior College and is studying for a law degree.

Simonson told the News Tribune on Sunday that he will seek the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party endorsement for Reinert’s seat, noting how he’d be able to bring his legislative seniority — he’s in the middle of his second term in the House, representing District 7B — over to the Senate.

“I think it makes the best sense for our Duluth-area delegation … to maintain some level of seniority in both houses rather than starting from scratch in the Senate,” Simonson said. “As much as I’ve enjoyed my time in the House, I think it makes really good sense for our delegation, for our area, to make that move.”

Duluth also is represented in the House by District 7A Rep. Jennifer Schultz, who is in the middle of her first term in the Legislature. A few precincts in the city are represented by District 3B Rep. Mary Murphy, first elected to the House in 1976.

If elected to the Senate, Simonson said he’d focus on continuing to advocate for Duluth state bonding requests, as well as improving the economy in Minnesota outside of the Twin Cities.

“(Advocating) for economic development in greater Minnesota will continue to be a strong theme of mine, and continuing to work with our regional partners … as we look to try to figure out ways to make sure that our economic future is stable and growing,” he said.

Simonson said he and Reinert had talked about the possibility of Reinert not running for re-election “for probably a year.”

“I’ve just been waiting for him to make his final decision,” Simonson said. He said a formal announcement of his candidacy will come Tuesday.

Simonson said he had no plans to challenge Reinert for the DFL endorsement if Reinert had run for re-election. Simonson also said he’ll respect the outcome of the DFL endorsement process if there are other DFL candidates for the open Senate seat.

Simonson’s decision to run for Senate will open the door for a new representative for District 7B, which covers western Duluth.

Simonson is a deputy chief with the Duluth Fire Department, and has been serving as interim chief since Bryan Bushey retired at the end of August. Outgoing Mayor Don Ness left selection of the new, permanent fire chief to his successor, Emily Larson, who takes office Monday.

“I fully intend to apply” to be chief, Simonson said. “I’d say probably half or more of the legislators that are currently sitting have full-time jobs, and I certainly have been able to figure out ways to make things work in the past. That being said, it’ll be up to the new administration whether that’s something they want to take on or not. ...

“If I didn’t think it was possible … I would focus on one or the other.”

Election dates for state offices in Minnesota in 2016 are Aug. 9 for primaries — for races in which they’re required — and Nov. 8 for the general election.

Before Reinert, the District 7 Senate seat was held by Yvonne Prettner Solon from 2002-11, and by Sam Solon from 1973-2001.