Dziedzic wins special election for Senate seat

Dziedzic won with 79 percent of the vote in the district, which is considered a DFL stronghold.

Senator-elect Kari Dziedzic hugs Senator Linda Higgins at her election night party Tuesday at Elsie's Restaurant in Minneapolis. Dziedzic won the special election for Senate District 59 with 79 percent of the vote.

Senator-elect Kari Dziedzic hugs Senator Linda Higgins at her election night party Tuesday at Elsie’s Restaurant in Minneapolis. Dziedzic won the special election for Senate District 59 with 79 percent of the vote.

Kevin Burbach

Kari Dziedzic will be the first new state senator for the University of Minnesota area in almost 30 years.

Dziedzic, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidate, won the special election Tuesday with an overwhelming 79 percent of the vote. Republican challenger and 21-year-old Augsburg College student Ben Schwanke had 19 percent.

Dziedzic thanked her supporters after numbers from all 25 precincts in the precinct had been reported Tuesday night.

âÄúNow I get to go work for all of you,âÄù Dziedzic said as she celebrated with friends, family and a few former opponents at ElsieâÄôs Restaurant in Northeast Minneapolis.

Mohamud Noor and Jacob Frey, both of whom ran against Dziedzic in the DFL primary in December, were at her election night party.

 âÄúIâÄôm here to support my next senator,âÄù Noor said.

Even though Dziedzic defeated him in the primary, Noor said he put his energy behind Dziedzic for the remaining weeks and helped to organize the Somali community.

âÄúI told them, âÄòWe lost the election, now we need to go vote for Kari.âÄôâÄù

Many had speculated Dziedzic’s victory in TuesdayâÄôs election was inevitable after the primary âÄî Senate District 59 is typically a DFL stronghold.

Voter turnout in the election was lower than in the December primary. More than 6,000 people voted on Dec. 10, compared to about 4,300 voters in the actual election.

Around the University of Minnesota campus, voter turnout was significantly smaller than in other precincts. Two students voted at Coffman Memorial Union, 21 in the Superblock area and 22 in Dinkytown.

Schwanke had previously expressed that he was disappointed that the election occurred when dorms are closed and classes at the University are not in session.

More than 140 voted at Van Cleve Park, but the majority were not students, according to Sarma Straumanis, the assistant chair judge at one of two polling places at the park.

âÄúWe had maybe half a dozen students, but it was mostly permanent residents. Usually itâÄôs the other way around.âÄù

As for his future in politics, Schwanke said heâÄôll attend the Republican precinct caucuses in early February but was undecided on whether or not heâÄôll run again for the Senate seat.

âÄúIâÄôm going to wait and see what redistricting does,âÄù Schwanke said Tuesday night at his election party at KeeganâÄôs Irish Bar in Northeast Minneapolis.

Dziedzic will take over for Larry Pogemiller as senator for District 59 when the 2012 legislative session begins on Jan. 24. Pogemiller left the seat in late October when Gov. Mark Dayton appointed him director for the stateâÄôs Department of Higher Education.

Dziedzic currently works as an aide to Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Stenglein, and had previously worked on several high-profile campaigns.

âÄúI was pushed [into the race],âÄù Dziedzic said laughing. But in the end, âÄúI thought long and hard and we need to stand up for what we believe in.âÄù

Dziedzic said having worked in both the public and private sectors for years has given her the ability to understand the issues.

Although DziedzicâÄôs term will end in a year, she said sheâÄôll run again in November.

In a concurrent special election in Minneapolis, DFLer Susan Allen won the House of Representatives District 61B seat with 56 percent of the vote. That seat was vacated by Jeff Hayden, who won a special election for the District 61 Senate seat in October.