The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

March 4, 2012

UPDATED: Al DeKruif steps out of legislative race

MANKATO — Freshman state Sen. Al DeKruif of Elysian has announced he won’t run for office this year — 12 days after a new redistricting map put him in the same district as fellow Republican Sen. Julie Rosen of Fairmont.

DeKruif briefly considered running against Rosen before announcing a week ago that he wouldn’t challenge the 10-year veteran but was considering moving to an open district just north of his rural Elysian home.

As recently as Saturday, DeKruif told delegates at the Blue Earth County Republican Convention that he was still conflicted about making the move, mentioning his 32-year-old son Jason, who has cerebral palsy.

“I can’t displace him very far,” he told the delegates.

And while DeKruif said Saturday he hadn’t made a final decision, he concluded with a comment that hinted at what it might be — telling the Blue Earth County GOP activists that he hoped they’d keep him in mind as a candidate if Rosen retires in coming years.

By Sunday afternoon, the owner of the Sakatah Trails Resort and a transportation consulting business reached the conclusion that moving his residence was the wrong decision.

“I need to do what is best for my family and businesses,” DeKruif said in a written statement. “After all, it is Minnesota families and job creators that led me to serve in the first place.”

DeKruif’s dilemma stemmed from the redistricting plan released Feb. 21 by a special judicial panel assigned to create new political maps to balance the number of constituents in each legislative district following the 2010 census. The maps put DeKruif on the far northern end of a district that was made up largely of territory Rosen has represented since 2002.

A new district that included most of Le Sueur County along with Northfield in Rice County — an area DeKruif represented after his 2010 election — doesn’t have a sitting senator. But running for that seat would have required him to buy or rent a home within the district boundaries by early May.

The decision to sit out the 2010 election ends — at least temporarily — a political career that was short but eventful. DeKruif was one of three Republicans eager to take on Democratic Sen. Kevin Dahle of Northfield, who had been elected in a special election to replace a Republican who resigned after nearly 18 years in the senate.

DeKruif won the Republican endorsement battle, then toppled Dahle in the general election — part of a wave of GOP victories that gave the party control of the Senate for the first time in 38 years. Shortly after the election, the new budget forecast was released showing Minnesota was facing a massive pool of red ink.

As part of the large freshman class of Republican senators, DeKruif strongly opposed Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s efforts to raise taxes to erase some of the shortfall. A three-week government shutdown — the longest in American history — resulted from the impasse, but Republicans never relented on taxes.

DeKruif said Saturday he was proud of the government reforms and the budget passed last year. He said he disagreed with some of the borrowing and school payment shifts included in the ultimate deal to end the shut-down, blaming that on Dayton.

But DeKruif’s reluctance to end his Senate tenure after just two years was clear during a short conversation outside the Blue Earth County convention. He said he had looked at so many houses in the new District 20 over the previous two days that he was having trouble keeping them sorted out in his mind.

His decision leaves District 20 Republicans without an announced candidate. DeKruif said more than one potential candidate had told him they were considering a run but agreed to await his decision.

DeKruif’s announcement Sunday included a statement from former state Rep. Laura Brod, R-New Prague, who didn’t seek re-election to the House in 2010 and who lives in the new District 20. Brod couldn’t be reached for comment Sunday, and her statement focused only on DeKruif.

“Al DeKruif is exactly what the Minnesota's citizen legislature should be about: a citizen who ran for office who used his actual life and business experiences to make positive change,” Brod wrote. ”We are lucky to have had such a thoughtful, hard-working and honest senator serving our area and I look forward to seeing him in politics in the future.”

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