Vandeveer bolts, jolts Senate race

He won’t seek reelection in new Senate District 39

Cliff Buchan
News Editor

In a last-minute decision on Tuesday, June 5, State Sen. Ray Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake, has backed away from a reelection bid this fall in new Senate District 39.

Vandeveer had earlier received the Republican endorsement to run again.

Vandeveer said on Wednesday, June 6 the decision to not run was due largely to the progression of Parkinson’s disease which he has been fighting for the past decade. “It’s slowing me down,” Vandeveer said. “It’s having an impact.”

Two Republicans quickly jumped into the race.

Karin Housley of Stillwater and Eric Michael Langness of Forest Lake both filed for the four-year term in the State Senate on June 5.

Langness is a former Forest Lake School Board member who lost his reelection bid. He has also lost election bids to the Forest Lake City Council and the Washington County Board from District One. He has been active in party politics.

Housley narrowly lost a Senate election bid two years ago to DFL State Sen. Katie Sieben.

No date for a district endorsing convention has not been announced. Should the party choose not to endorse, the two candidates would go to the August 14 primary election ballot.

The winner will face Julie Bunn of Lake Elmo,the DFL endorsed candidate who previously served two terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives. She filed for the Senate seat on Monday, June 4.

Vandeveer said he would wait until after the endorsing convention to announce who he would support in the fall election.

The decision

The decision was reached, Vandeveer said in the “wake of a grueling” session and an evaluation of his physical condition. It was a difficult decision to make, he said, but one that also took into account his family.

“Yesterday about noon,” Vandeveer said on June 6 when asked when the final decision was reached. “I love serving. It’s something I liked to do. It’s not about me.”

Vandeveer said he was slowed during the past session by the Parkinson’s and was uncertain about his ability to continue to perform and deal with business. “You need to be at your sharpest at all times,” he said.

Vandeveer has served in the state legislature since 1998. He served four terms in the Minnesota House before running for the Minnesota Senate in 2006 when Sen. Michele Bachmann stepped down to run for the U.S. Congress from the Sixth District.

Vandeveer won election in 2006 and claimed a second term for two years in 2010. He served this past session as chair of the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee.

He will turn 59 on July 8th.

Race in Flux

Vandeveer’s decision came as a big surprise to fellow Forest Lake Republican Dennis Hegberg who has expressed interest in running for the seat, but would never challenge his friend, Vandeveer, Hegberg said last week. He is a county commissioner serving the First District.

He was in Nashville, TN on June 5, the last day to file with the Secretary of State, when he learned of Vandeveer’s decision.

“I’m frustrated,” Hegberg said. “He (Vandeveer) knew that I was interested.”

Now Hegberg finds himself in a county board fight. Fellow Republican Fran Miron of Hugo, the mayor there for 16 years, on June 5 filed to challenge Hegberg for the county board seat.

Hegberg said he toyed with the idea of trying to file from Nashville by use of FAX documents, but learned too late in the day to accomplish the steps needed, which would have required him to pull his name from the county board race. He filed for reelection on May 22, the first day that filings opened.

Hegberg was in Nashville attending a Public Risk Management Association conference. He represents the county board to the association.

There is another casualty in the Vandeveer decision.

When redistricting was announced this winter, State Sen. Ted Lille of Lake Elmo found himself living in the same district with Vandeveer. Lille, who did not want to challenge his fellow Republican, moved to a home in the new Senate district south of Stillwater where no incumbent Republican was running.

“I would think he [Lille] would be a little upset,” Hegberg added/

Formal Statement

Vandeveer issued a formal statement the day after deciding not to run. It said in part:

“Campaigning has been a huge part of my family life for the last 15 years and they would walk on nails to see me get reelected, but I don’t want to put them through that again. It is time for all of us to move on.

“We had a challenging but very successful session. In the worst recession since the great depression, we balanced a $5.2 billion inherited shortfall, and for the first time in five years, the current year budget shows a surplus. I am comfortable handing that over to my successor.

“I am grateful to my family, my many volunteers, and those who trusted me to serve for the last 15 years.”

He and his wife, Camille, live in Forest Lake.