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Fenton, Ward return to Minnesota House

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It's back to work for state reps. Kelly Fenton, R-Woodbury, and JoAnn Ward, DFL-Woodbury.

Fenton beat Alberder Gillespie, garnering 13,740 votes to her DFL challenger's 10,620—a 53 percent to 47 percent margin.

Ward beat Andy Turonie by a much wider spread, earning 12,348 votes to the Republican challenger's 8,535—a 59 percent to 41 percent tally.

Early Tuesday morning, both Fenton and Ward stressed their ability to reach across the aisle to work with the opposing political party. Democrats and Republicans made bipartisan strides in 2016, only to be stymied by last-minute maneuvers like the amendment that cost the Minnesota Legislature its transportation bonding bill and the veto that blocked one of the most bipartisan tax bills in the history of the state, Fenton said. She marked the House votes on transportation and tax relief as progress.

"We need to go back (to St. Paul) and build upon that," Fenton said.

Fenton said she won't give up on a bill to fund a Minnesota Department of Transportation safety study of interstates 94 and 494.

"That's something I'm not going to let die," Fenton said.

In Senate District 53, legislators are doing something right—listening, paying attention to constituents concerns, establishing relationships and being responsive, Ward said.

At the Capitol, civil discourse is needed to avoid partisanship, which otherwise "keeps us apart," Ward said. "My work in civil discourse is going to be more important than ever."

She said quotes that were twisted or taken out of context by the media didn't help work at the Capitol.

"That contributes to lack of harmony and the potential for getting things done," Ward said. "Everybody needs to be able to come to the table. But trust is a big part of that."

Legislators will take part in a National Institute for Civil Discourse workshop this winter, consisting of large- and small-group discussions, presentations, engagement with each other, reflection and personal work.

"This is not about people sitting around and singing kumbaya," Ward said.

The confidential time spent with other legislators should create a new trust, openness and opportunity for transformation, she added.

Working as a legislator "really is about being able to make life better for people," Ward said. "I like bringing people together to solve problems. But you have a lot of people and a lot of interests."

Fenton, first elected in 2014, said she was humbled by voters' support.

Ward, enjoying her second re-election, said she too was grateful.