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Senate 56 results: Lillie leads Saltzman

Republican challenger Ted Lillie was the favorite over incumbent state Sen. Kathy Saltzman with 71 percent of the Senate District 56 vote results reported.

Lillie had 52.9 percent of the vote to Democrat Saltzman's 46.9 percent, with 20 of 28 precincts reporting to the secretary of state.

Saltzman has served in the Minnesota Senate since 2006, when she ousted a Republican incumbent amid a wave of Democratic victories. In her first term she pushed education and charter school reform proposals, saw a tax incentive for start-up businesses become law and worked on east-metro transportation issues.

This was Lillie's first run for office, but he long has been involved in the Republican Party. Lillie is co-owner of Lillie Suburban Newspapers, a chain of St. Paul-area community papers. (The Bulletin is not a Lillie paper.)

In his campaign, Lillie touted his private business experience.

The race drew considerable attention, in part because each candidate landed influential business backing. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce's political organization endorsed both candidates, an unprecedented move.

Also, Minnesota Capitol political leaders viewed the Senate District 56 contest as a bellwether for other legislative races. Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller and Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem agreed in a recent radio interview that the Saltzman-Lillie race was among a handful to watch closely.

The Senate district includes Woodbury, Lake Elmo, Landfall, part of Stillwater and other St. Croix Valley communities.