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Woodbury's Ward reacts to House win, prepares for 'big job'

JoAnn Ward, shown here at a summer fundraising event, won over 56 percent of registered voters in House District 53A.

A Woodbury woman with deep roots in education and restorative justice came away with a win last week over a GOP candidate who focused on health care and schools.

Democrat JoAnn Ward defeated Pam Cunningham in the House District 53A race, which comprises western Woodbury, Landfall and parts of Maplewood and Oakdale.

Ward secured 11,932 votes - or 56 percent - to Cunningham's 9,269.

"I'm speechless," Ward said after the win. "I will work really hard for all of the people in the district."

She said voters were motivated by her message that education drives job growth.

"They needed to hear some reassurance about jobs and working on the economy," Ward said.

Cunningham, a nurse and nine-year member of the District 622 School Board, built her campaign around her experiences with education funding and health care.

Ward won every precinct in the race except one - Oakdale's eighth precinct, where Cunningham edged her 430-391.

"What we heard from virtually everyone at the door was that they were so fed up with the gridlock, of the Legislature not getting things done," Ward said.

Cunningham did not return a call seeking comment.

Ward expected the new DFL Legislature to concentrate on the economy, education funding, balancing the state's budget and health care.

"That's the direction they'll be working on," Ward said.

The race was run without an incumbent; outgoing Rep. Nora Slawik, DFL-Maplewood, announced she was retiring from the Legislature shortly before the Senate District 53 endorsing convention.

At the convention, Slawik, who urged Ward to run, made a telling prediction that turned true. She told attendees that Senate District 53 would be a bellwether for the state.

"Some people are calling Senate District 53 the Ohio of Minnesota," she said. "How this district goes is how the state will go. We are going to be a district to watch."

She was right. Democrats won two out of the three seats in Senate District 53, with Woodbury Rep. Andrea Kieffer the only Republican left standing in an election that saw legislative power flip from GOP control to DFL hands.

Ward said she was "awed, thrilled and humbled" by the win.

"It's a big job," she said.

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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