Republicans eyeball Legislature seat

by Chris Vetter

Democrat Larry Pogemiller needs to hold onto his seat in the Minnesota Senate if his party hopes to keep its majority in the state Legislature.
Several special elections stemming from scandal and resignations in the past two years have allowed Republicans to draw within four seats of taking control of the Senate. One seat the Democrats now believe they must hold onto at all costs is District 59, where Pogemiller has held sway since 1982.
District 59 includes the Minneapolis campus, except Middlebrook Hall.
Pogemiller, 45, has lived in the district his whole life, and graduated from the University with an economics degree in 1974. He is the chair of the Education Funding Committee, which distributes the largest part of the state’s budget, Pogemiller said.
Pogemiller said he is very involved in matters important to his district, and has fought with the University in the past.
He said he favors getting the University to move its steam plant off the Mississippi River and has prevented a metal shredder from being built in north Minneapolis. His support for environmental protection has earned him the support of the Sierra Club, an environmental protection interest group.
Pogemiller is also a strong supporter of abortion rights, a topic he said will continue to come up in discussions at the Capitol. “It is very important in our legislature,” Pogemiller said. “We have bills all the time that try to limit a woman’s right to choose.”
It would appear that Pogemiller would have to slip up drastically to lose this year’s election. He was reelected in 1992 by a wide margin, receiving about 72 percent of the popular vote, while Republican challenger Mike Amery received only 28 percent.
The poor showing by Republicans in this district has not discouraged Catherine Carlson, who is challenging Pogemiller in this year’s election.
Carlson, 36, said she has also lived in the district her whole life. and is familiar with the University community because she spent a lot of time in Dinkytown while growing up.
She has worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 15 years and said she has been a Republican since her early 20s. “I find them to be more in line with my ideals,” Carlson said.
Carlson said voters in the district are more similar to her than to Pogemiller. “I feel an identity with average middle-class people who are struggling to make their mortgage payments,” she said.
Carlson said she decided to run because federal welfare reform will give the state Legislature more power in allocating funds. She said Republicans need to control the Legislature during this process.
“I am extremely afraid of leaving this restructuring in the hands of the DFL to handle my tax dollars,” Carlson said.
Other key issues in the Legislature this year will include protecting unborn children and not allowing gay marriages, Carlson said.
Carlson’s campaign has started very slowly. She did not raise enough money to receive matching funds from the state and does not have lawn signs in the district. She said she is depending on word of mouth and knocking on doors to get her message out.
Because of Pogemiller’s popularity, Carlson said, she may not win this year, but will still be glad that she ran. “I think I will be successful with the percent I receive,” she said.