LE SUEUR — In 2010, with Republicans sweeping out Democratic incumbents across Minnesota and sweeping into power, Kelby Woodard of Belle Plaine squeaked by DFL Rep. David Bly of Northfield by 37 votes among more than 17,000 cast.
Redistricting following the 2010 census left Northfield and Belle Plaine in separate districts and Rep. Woodard is campaigning in new territory and running against a different Democrat — Ryan Wolf of Le Sueur. For Le Sueur County residents — and most of the western half of the county is in House District 20A — both candidates are new.
Woodard might not have a Republican wave at his back in his re-election run, but the Texas native and Belle Plaine business owner said he’s part of a GOP majority with a solid record to run on.
“The biggest thing that happened over the last two years was we turned that $6.2 billion shortfall into a $1.2 billion surplus,” Woodard said. And it was done without accepting Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposed income tax hikes on wealthier Minnesotans.
Wolf, owner of a Le Sueur-based wind energy development company, said that Republican budget solution wasn’t so impressive for middle-class Minnesotans, people who care about education and property owners.
“This is still a Republican-leaning district, but we’re getting out there and spreading the word,” Wolf said. “I’m optimistic about my chances. I think there’s enough discontent with the government shutdown and the property tax increases to make this competitive.”
The improvement in the state budget began before the new Republican majorities in the House and Senate wrote their proposed budget. The $6.2 billion in projected red ink during the 2010 campaign fell to $5 billion when a new budget forecast was released shortly after the 2011 legislative session began.
It was still a whopping deficit, and disagreements between lawmakers and Dayton turned into an impasse that resulted in a three-week government shutdown. Ultimately, a deal was done, and the two-year budget cycle is now expected to end with a surplus.