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Kent retains state Senate seat in close race

Susan Kent will serve a second term in the Minnesota State Senate after narrowly beating Republican challenger Sharna Wahlgren during Tuesday’s election.

The race for Senate District 53 saw less than 399 votes separate the DFL incumbent from her challenger and could lead to a recount of votes.  Both candidates said the tight race may underscore a sense of frustration among Minnesota voters, including those in the district covering Woodbury and parts of Maplewood and Landfall.   

“I think what we're seeing is a bigger issue, and frankly I'm not surprised,” Kent said, following the final vote that came in after midnight.

Throughout Kent’s campaign, she highlighted her work over the past four years with promises of addressing transportation, higher education affordability and recent concerns over health insurance costs.

She finished with a total of 23,035 votes, or 50.38 percent.

With a possible special session ahead of lawmakers’ concerns regarding high insurance costs for some, Kent said she hopes to find possible solutions before open enrollment ends Jan. 1.

“I think the process and properties of the DFL are designed to make an economy that works for everybody,” Kent said.

She also lauded her involvement with a bipartisan group of senators known as the Purple Caucus and will be taking on leadership of the group with the retirement of Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth.

Meanwhile, Wahlgren outperformed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in most of the district’s polling places.

“It's hard to pave the whole path and come a few inches short,” she said.

Wahlgren’s total fell less than 1 percent short of Kent’s, with 22,636 total votes, which makes the race eligible for a public recount, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State.  

Across the state, voters put the Minnesota House and Senate back into the hands of Republicans, which may spell strong opposition to DFL policies going into the final few years of Gov. Mark Dayton’s term.

As results came in early Wednesday morning, Republicans picked up three additional House seats, bringing their majority to  76-57 over Democrats.

Senate Republicans flipped the chamber by one race and will hold a 34-33 majority in the chamber. Democrats went into Tuesday’s election with a 10-seat advantage.

Kent joins fellow DFLer JoAnn Ward, who retained her seat against Republican Challenger Andy Turonie for House District 53A, which covers western Woodbury and parts of southern Maplewood.