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Jurgens leads Slaten in House District 54B race

Republican Tony Jurgens led Democrat Don Slaten with more than half the precincts reporting in the Minnesota House District 54B race.

Jurgens, of Cottage Grove, led Slaten about 55-45 percent with 10 of 19 precincts reporting, according to unofficial results. Jurgens had 5,237 votes to Slaten’s 4,329.

In his first bid for elected office, Jurgens campaigned on his longtime volunteerism in Cottage Grove and Hastings. He pledged to work with both Republicans and Democrats, claiming friendships on both sides of the aisle.

The race between Jurgens and Slaten was an unusually expensive battle, though not necessarily by the candidates. Political parties and outside groups poured at least $340,000 into the race, swamping voters with direct mail, cable TV spots and online ads.

Jurgens and Slaten denounced the attack ads, each claiming he was not responsible for any negative ads against his opponent.

The open race was targeted as both parties eyed control of the Minnesota Legislature.

Traditionally a safe Republican seat, District 54B gained attention after Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, announced on the last day of the candidate filing period that he would not seek re-election, and he tapped Jurgens to run to replace him. The last-minute maneuver prevented a GOP primary and set up the Jurgens-Slaten contest.

Slaten believed his chances improve with McNamara’s retirement.

This was Slaten’s second shot at the District 54B seat. He lost to McNamara in 2014. Slaten campaigned on the need for more transportation funding, a statewide public works construction package and water quality protection.

House District 54B includes the eastern half of Cottage Grove, Denmark Township, Afton, Hastings and Nininger Township.

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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