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Pam Cunningham, a Maplewood resident, was endorsed Saturday to run as a Republican in House District 53A.

Woodbury-area Republican slate set for fall

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The field of local GOP candidates planning to run for legislative seats is set.

That slate was finalized Saturday at Woodbury High School, where Republican delegates gave their blessing to three candidates: Sen. Ted Lillie, Rep. Andrea Kieffer and Pam Cunningham, a newcomer to the legislative scene.

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Cunningham, a District 622 School Board member, received the endorsement to run in House District 53A, which includes much of western Woodbury in addition to portions of Maplewood, Oakdale and Landfall.

Cunningham, a Maplewood resident, is a nine-year veteran of the District 622 School Board, which encompasses Maplewood, Oakdale and North St. Paul. A nurse, she works at St. Mary's Health Clinics, which provide free care for patients.

Cunningham later clarified to delegates that the nonprofit clinic system does not take government subsidies. Her husband, Bruce Cunningham, is a doctor practicing in Woodbury.

She ran under the assumption she would be challenging incumbent Rep. Nora Slawik, DFL-Maplewood. That is no longer the case. Slawik announced Saturday that will not seek re-election.

Woodbury resident Mark Wackefuss, who briefly entertained a Senate District 53 run last week, said he now intends to seek the House District 53A endorsement when his party's delegates convene this week for their endorsements.

Cunningham named family, education and "health care freedom" as "passions" she intends to bring to the Legislature.

On education, Cunningham blasted a system that allows states to take money from education coffers to balance the budget without the promise of paying back those funds.

"If I get on the Legislature, that will not happen again," she told delegates.

Lillie's endorsement clears the way for him to run unabated in his own Senate district. He has said he will move to Woodbury in order to validate his residency requirement.

Lillie decided on the move after his current Senate district was redrawn and created a candidacy conflict with fellow Republican Sen. Ray Vandeveer, of Forest Lake.

Cunningham, Lillie and Kieffer - who represents Woodbury in the House - all received endorsements on voice votes. None of the three faced challengers from within the party for the endorsement.

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Mike Longaecker
Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker
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