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Sieben won't seek re-election to state senate

State Sen. Katie Sieben won’t seek re-election this fall, ending a 14-year legislative run and creating a potentially competitive 2016 race to succeed her.

Sieben announced Tuesday she’ll step down from the Minnesota Senate when her term ends this year and has no plans to run for another elected office.

“I really have loved serving in the Legislature and it’s been a lot of fun and certainly a tremendous honor to represent this area that I grew up in and feel so strongly about,” Sieben, 38, said in an interview, “but it’s been 14 years and it’s time to do something else.”

A Cottage Grove DFLer, Sieben was first elected to the House in 2002. She served two terms before winning an open Senate race in 2006. She was re-elected to the Senate twice and currently serves as assistant majority leader. She is chair of the Senate’s elections subcommittee.

Sieben joins a number of senators who have announced they will step down this year. She had been viewed as a rising star in the DFL and was considered by Gov. Mark Dayton as a possible lieutenant governor running mate in his 2014 re-election.

Seven said she has no post-Legislature work planned, but wants to stay engaged in public policy.

She echoed other young departed lawmakers in saying legislative compensation factored into her decision. She is married with three children.

“The pay is a factor and to not say that, I think, does a disservice to the people who will serve after me,” she said. “If we expect so much of our elected officials and for them to be actively engaged, they need to attend meetings and work outside the Capitol to be good legislators.

She added: “And the pay is something that hasn’t been increased since I’ve been in office, and that’s tough to justify.”

Lawmakers earn $31,140, plus per diem. It’s technically a part-time position, but many legislators say the time and workload is far greater.

Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, agreed that salary is a factor in the departure of lawmakers like Sieben.

“The reality (is) you’re eligible for public assistance if you were trying to raise a family on our salary,” he said, and that makes it difficult to attract a variety of people to serve in the Legislature.

Other lawmakers who have stepped down in recent years moved into lobbying at the Minnesota Capitol. While Sieben did not rule that out, she said she has no plans to lobby.

“I don’t know,” she said. “It’s too early to say.”

In announcing her decision, Sieben touted her work on transportation and election issues. She pushed for construction of the Wakota Bridge, Hastings Bridge and has been a proponent of the Red Rock transit corridor and rail initiatives.

“Particularly gratifying are the steps we’ve taken on behalf of our children through passage of all-day kindergarten and expansion of pre-k,” she said. “Banning harmful chemicals like BPA is making products safer for children and families. Increasing protections for our iconic Mississippi and St. Croix rivers will ensure that current and future generations will be able to enjoy these beautiful natural resources.”

Sieben said she’ll be focused on parental leave legislation in the upcoming session, which begins March 8, as well as a bonding bill and transportation funding package.

McNamara was elected with Sieben in 2002. McNamara said she told him of her plans after their town hall meeting Monday in Hastings.

While they belong to different parties, McNamara said he and Sieben have worked well together.

“It’s been an honor to serve with her,” he said.

Sieben’s District 54 includes all of south Washington County, a portion of South St. Paul, Hastings and Vermillion Township.

All legislative seats are on the ballot this fall — Senate for four-year terms, House members for two years.

On the House side, McNamara represents District 54B, while Rep. Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, holds the 54A seat. Schoen was traveling and unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Senate District 54 DFL Chairwoman Diana Tunheim said Tuesday she was not yet aware of anyone planning to run for Senate.

“We have a lot of good people,” she said. “I believe that there will be people announcing that they will be running before the (March 1) caucus.”

McNamara said he has no plans to run for Senate, but expects a competitive race.

Sieben said she will hard for the remainder of her term.

“I am grateful for the support of my family throughout the years,” she said. “I am especially thankful for the wise guidance and example of my dad, Mike Sieben, who served in the Minnesota House for ten years. He told me I’d never regret serving in public office, and he was right. The ability to help people, to make a difference, and to work for what I believe is right has been incredibly rewarding."

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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