Langness, Housley square off in Tuesday’s primary

Former FL school board member faces funding hole against highly visible Senate district newcomer


Clint Riese
Staff Writer

Neither Karin Housley nor Eric Langness on June 4 had any inkling of running for state Senate, but they found themselves filing as candidates in District 39 after frantic trips to the Capitol the very next day.

The eleventh-hour decision of seven-term state legislator Ray Vandeveer (R-Forest Lake) not to seek a third term in the Senate left his party temporarily without a prospect for representation on the November ballot. Ultimately, it set up an Aug. 14 primary between Housley, a business owner from St. Mary’s Point, and Langness, a collegiate career services advisor from Forest Lake.

Linked article: Local polling locations set

Up for grabs is the chance to run on the Nov. 6 ticket against DFL candidate Julie Bunn for the senate seat in the newly formed district which includes: Bayport, Baytown Township, Forest Lake, Franconia Township, Grant, Lake Elmo, Lake St. Croix Beach, Lakeland, Lakeland Shores, Marine on St. Croix, May Township, Oak Park Heights, Pine Springs, Scandia, Shafer, St. Mary’s Point, Stillwater, Stillwater Township and West Lakeland Township.

Langness touts experience

The candidacy of Langness, a Forest Lake resident of 14 years, has direct ties to the seat’s outgoing legislator. Langness was a veteran member of Vandeveer’s campaign committee and was working as communications coordinator for the 2012 race.

Eric Langness

“I was actually working as part of the campaign the night before filing closed,” said Langness.

That ended up being Vandeveer’s last night as a candidate. The next day, Langness came upon a Minnesota Public Radio article announcing Vandeveer’s withdrawal. When his attempts to reach the senator were unsuccessful, Langness checked with the state and found that no Republican had filed. He hurried to St. Paul hours before the deadline.

“I knew that we needed a name on the ballot at the absolute minimum,” he said, speaking for the Republican Party. “I did not know if I would be running a campaign or not. I knew I had a couple days to decide whether to pull my name off that ballot.”

He spent those days pondering whether to run and eventually decided to keep his hat in the ring.

“I kind of looked at my professional history and it matches very well with the issues of today,” he said. “What I’m hearing on the campaign trail and what I knew even before I started campaigning was that jobs, education and health care are the top three priorities for Minnesotans….I’ve got a pretty wide range in those three areas and I think that expertise will really help me at the Capitol.”

The 34-year-old points to his background in career services as experience in the jobs sector. His time as an x-ray and ultrasound technician and later in health care management shows a strong history in that field, he said. And Langness feels his service on the Forest Lake School Board and several other boards including the Educational Cooperative Service Unit of the Metropolitan Twin Cities Area demonstrates his passion for education.

Housley’s web site features those same three topics as key issues, and Langness feels his platform is essentially identical to that of his opponent.

“Her position, I don’t disagree with any piece of it,” he said. “What I do disagree with is that the front of her website says that she’s the candidate with experience. From what I know of Karin, she is the wife of an NHL hockey player and she sells houses to the so-called ‘1 percent.’ I don’t know how that experience is [related to] jobs, education or health care. So I think I’m the better candidate standing up for the issues of today.”

Langness feels he is more electable than Housley based on his background both in business and as an elected official.

“I’ve served in office and won an election,” he said, noting that Housley spent over $80,000 and lost a race against incumbent state Sen. Katie Sieben in District 57 in 2010, the same year in which Republicans carried both House seats in that district.

“I look at that and go, ‘How did she screw this up?’,” Langness said. “It scares me that she doesn’t have the right message and the branding that the GOP is looking for.”

Langness also feels he is better equipped to match up in debates with Bunn, whom he said knows the issues inside and out.

It appeared that Langness had missed the deadlines for several campaign filings as the documents were not available this week in state records online. However, an administrator with the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board on Monday said the omissions were due to a processing error and that the state had indeed received them. The filings were posted by Monday afternoon.

Langness spent several terms as the deputy chair for Senate District 52 and is currently the vice chair for the Sixth Congressional District. The longtime party delegate lost his re-election bid for school board in 2009 and also lost a primary for Washington County Board in 2008.

Housley touts electability

Housley had long been gearing up for a rematch with Sieben after losing by 600 votes and less than 1 percent in 2010. Then redistricting hit this February and she learned that St. Mary’s Point would be pulled away from most of its current district neighbors and lodged as the southernmost town of the new District 39.

Karin Housley

“I know I would’ve won [a rematch with Sieben], so that day, Feb. 21, was sadder to me than losing 0the election in 2010,” Housley said.

The presence of Vandeveer and the prospect of Sen. Ted Lillie of Lake Elmo coming in from current District 56 left the real estate business owner without hope of running in her new district. Housley toyed with the idea of relocating in order to run against Sieben but chose instead to put her political aspirations on hold.

“I had almost thrown all my signs away and just said ‘Okay, this is what God wants for me, no political career,’” she said.

Then came word of the last-minute opening in District 39, a region with which Housley said she is much more familiar. Her business is based out of Stillwater, as is her Saturday morning talk show on AM 1220 KLBB. Like Langness, she raced to the Capitol upon hearing from a friend in the state legislature of Vandeveer’s pending retirement.

Housley, a native of South St. Paul, said she was recruited by the GOP for the 2010 campaign but has devoted herself to politics since. She had previously kept a finger on the pulse of the issues, which she saw play out firsthand through her work as a Realtor. A decade ago, Housley said, homeowners would share happy tales of dreams fulfilled.

“Now I sit down and I say, ‘How many mortgage payments are you behind?’ You look at the bigger picture and one or the other had lost their jobs,” she said. “Our state just isn’t business friendly.”

The 48-year-old also has a deep interest in education. Her husband, Phil, spent 21 years in the National Hockey League, which required the family to move frequently. Their oldest of four children spent time in 12 schools by the time she reached ninth grade.

Housley staunchly opposes Langness’s view on electability, arguing that she is far more qualified to take on Bunn, her fellow Lake Elmo Rotary Club member.

“There’s no way Eric Langness can beat Julie Bunn,” Housley said. “He doesn’t have the name recognition and he hasn’t raised the funds. If you really want to beat Julie Bunn, I am the only candidate who can do that.”

The former television news producer has produced a war chest of over $16,000 since June while Langness has raised less than $1,000.

Housley feels the state government needs to be run more like a business and would benefit from fresh faces and ideas.

“I might be naive in thinking it, but I really think I could make a difference at the Capitol, just because I’m not there to be a career politician,” she said. “I want to get in there, bring my leadership qualities and my business savvy and get some things done.”


  • E. Baylor

    Good luck Karin – please remember everyone to get to the polls. Your vote at a primary is much more important than even the actual election as very few people will actually show for a primary vote. Ignore the Sharpie and duct tape signs and vote for KARIN!

  • S. Jackson

    There’s no doubt Housley is capable of raising (and spending) money, however that 80k she spent last time did no good. Money, pretty signs and balloons wont win this election; experience, knowledge, insight, and integrity will, which Eric possesses and Karin lacks. A vote for Housley on the Aug 14th primary is a vote for Julie Bunn in November.

  • GOPNeighbor

    “experience, knowledge, insight, and integrity will, which Eric possesses and Karin lacks.”
    My goodness, that is a strong statement. Since it is inaccurate, S. Jackson, you could find yourself in a lawsuit. How is Housley not experienced, knowledgeable, with insight, and most importantly, how does Housley lack integrity? I don’t think you could provide honest answers. Housley is a friend with: solid grounding in the community, a small business owner – real estate as well as other endeavors, a published author, childen in the schools, well-known across the district for her volunteer work and radio show, extensive non-profit volunteer experience on the ground as on boards, knowledgeable on the issues that matter most to Minnesotans, has experience as a hardworking candidate, proven fundraising ability, and integrity that makes her trusted by all who have worked with her. Langness doesn’t have small business experience with hiring – firing – financials- etc., limited volunteer experience, no children, hasn’t proven himself as a hard-working candidate – for example, has only raised $900, is mostly known only in the Forest Lake area, and served as a Senate District Deputy Chair which by his own admission is the easiest position, because you don’t have to do any work. Doesn’t sound very admirable or high in integrity to me. What an embarrassment.

  • Amanda Richards

    I had the chance to speak to both Langness and Housley at the Washington County fair. Eric was quick to answer my questions intelligently and he impressed me the most. Vote for Eric!

  • Karen

    I believe either candidate can (and will) beat Julie Bunn. However, I do favor a match up of Langness vs Bunn and would look forward to a debate between those two on the issues. Eric is hard working, approachable, knowledgeable, and has great practical experience to bring to St. Paul. He would be a strong voice for conservative principles in the Minnesota Senate. The money will come and the volunteers are ready to roll. The two candidates and their supporters can likely agree on one thing — this district must elect a Republican!

  • Will

    It is not very impressive to say that name recognition and large funds is the reason to vote for a candidate. You vote for the candidate that you feel is best qualified.

  • E. Baylor

    If you want to know about Eric, just go back a few months and read all his posts and comments on articles in this very paper.

  • Gordy Davis

    I have know Eric for over 10 years. He says it like it is and is very honest.
    Most politicians these days run on promises and don’t deliver. I KNOW Eric Langness will deliver.
    Vote Langness

  • Karl O.

    Eric Langness has no support. He has only raised $780 and couldn’t even make the minimum amount required by the state to qualify for the public dollars (that his opponent and Housley easily surpassed). Not to mention he only has $241 left in the bank as he spent money on things like duct tape so he could cover up his last three election losses on his campaign signs…though, I don’t see the Sharpie marker on his expenses that he used to write STATE SENATE across the duct tape. No one voted for Langness for School Board, for County Commissioner nor for his own party’s Deputy Chair…but he and his ego think he can run for State Senate. His $241 won’t even get him enough gas money to get to the Capitol. What an embarrassment. Langness’ Campaign Finance Report Link:

  • Liz Neal

    I am a small business owner and Karin makes me feel like I am a BIG business owner. I love her awesome personality and positive attitude. She is a very real person and I like that about her. If you ask me, hands down, she’s the best candidate. I have a house she’s been working to do a short sale and I am just an average Joe,hardworking and not rich.

  • The Watcher

    In this article Mr. Langness said “From what I know of Karin, she is the wife of an NHL hockey player and she sells houses to the so-called ‘1 percent.’”

    Here he is using the 1% label to attack Mrs. Housley. Because he said this he must not personally hold the core conservative principle of private property rights. The 1% idea is based in Marxism and is an outright attack on private property. The idea that the 1% are less entitled to their property or wealth than the other 99% is wrong. In this case he implies that success is bad and should be disrespected, which is simply wrong. It is the envy of another’s wealth that Mr. Langness has appealed to and used by Marx to incite “class warfare.”

    Perhaps, Mr. Langness will recognize his error and apologize to Mrs. Housley and the others who mistakenly believed his self-proclaimed “conservative” label. However, he has just revealed that he does not have a very deep understanding of conservative principles.

  • Sherry

    I think people should just Google Eric Langness to see all the ridiculous things he’s got out there on the internet. Obviously an attention seeker with some anger issues…..

    downplaying domestic assault:

    Another commenter tells Langness they don’t want his opinion:

    Langness conflict on the FL School Board:

    Eric Langness: Anti-Catholic?
    Communion wafer turns red in S. St. Paul — is it miraculous? |

    Eric Langness arguing with a Forest Lake guy online:

    Another commenter bashes Langness:

  • Patty

    Is this the same Eric Langness who has lost 2 elections – 1 School Board and 1 County Commissioner? I believe he also recently lost his attempt to continue being the Senate District Deputy Chair. So he has lost more elections than he is accusing Housley of losing. Cheap and immature.

  • GOPNeighbor

    Will, I understand your statement about name recognition and fundraising ability. However, in order for a candidate to win, they must have both. People tend not to vote for “strangers”, and it takes a lot of money to campaign effectively. Ask Kurt Bills – his campaign is hurting, because he is out of money. He has to cover the entire state and work to get that name recognition, but he doesn’t even have the gas money to travel around in those buses. What a shame. Now you are supporting Langness who doesn’t even have the money for decent signs. Duct tape and Sharpie markers isn’t going to sell well, because it isn’t professional. What is he going to use for literature? Old School Board lit photocopies? If he can’t raise the money to run a campaign, he can’t win.

  • Jerry Johnston

    It is time for the reign of career politicians to end. Once I heard Eric’s ambitions in life were to become a politician I crossed him off my list. I did not even have to search out his horrible track record, but being a political junkie I did. If he was so close with Senator Vandeveer and his campaign, why wouldn’t Senator Vandeveer contact him personally about retiring instead of Eric finding out by a Google Alert? Also, where is Senator Vandeveer’s endorsement of his former campaigner? That’s right, even the Senator knows this election is not going Eric’s way!

  • Arnold Lahd

    Two major things bother me the most about Eric’s attitude. Republicans are regularly trashed for being insensitive or living with blinders on. In following the link, (taken from a previous comment) Eric certainly doesn’t appear to be a progressive conservative who has evolved. Physical abuse in any form, be it against anyone, is nothing to be taken lightly or downplayed or connected to some outside political conspiracy. That idea makes Eric, once brought up widely, undetectable.
    downplaying domestic assault:

    The other issue is his joined at the hip stance with Michele Bachmann. She has her own celebrity agenda far beyond that of meeting the honest needs of her constituents. She knows that as do most others, regardless of their political affiliation. Eric looks a little too wide eyed and awe struck in all those photos he has with her. That reminds me? Didn’t Michele bring up the term “tar baby”? Could be what happens to those who got a little to close to her, prior to her upcoming loss this November. Minnesotans aren’t stupid.

  • Tim MacKenzie

    If ALL things were equal, I would have to vote for the person with 14 years more Life experience. A person picks up a lot of wisdom from age 34 to age 48.

  • Anna

    Housley wrote a great book about how to make millions during a stock market bubble.

    Anyone who can spot a bubble market (stocks, real estate) and take advantage to make lots of money while calling herself and her female friends “chicks” (which she does throughout the book) is a winner.

    Check it out. Scroll down to see the great reviews.

  • Annie Potter

    I’m not sure whether to laugh at the ridiculous nature of Mr. Langness’s responses in this article or feel sorry for him for giving away his credibility!

    The only tiny glimmer of truth I can find in Mr. Langness’s comments is that yes, Karin Housley ‘is the wife of a NHL hockey player’. Her husband is Phil Housley, who retired from the NHL several years ago and now coaches the Stillwater High School boys hockey team. The former Olympian and current Head Coach of the Junior National Hockey Team is a great American and Karin’s #1 supporter. This is where I part ways with Mr. Langness’s statements. First, I’d like to point out who Karin is married to has absolutely nothing to do with her qualifications for public office. She is an accomplished leader, business owner, author, volunteer and board member in her own right. She is also the revered mother of four wonderful successful children who have attended our public school systems.

    Next, to attempt to portray her as someone who caters to the rich and famous (his reference ‘so called one percent) is a gross misrepresentation. While Karin’s reputation as a ‘super’ Realtor has helped her earn the trust of a few high-end buyers and sellers, a careful look at Karin’s closings will show that ultra-high-end homes represent a small percentage of the overall number of homes sold. From personal experience, I know that Karin successfully and consistently represents buyers and sellers from all walks of life. Clients in all demographic brackets seek her out because she is highly qualified and a great Realtor. I know we did!
    Of greater concern is the impression of himself that Mr. Langness attempts to paint through his responses. Therefore, I feel compelled to question whether he truly has the experience or savvy necessary to serve at a State level.

    Of more concern…I find it shocking and disturbing that as, ‘the Communications Coordinator for Vandeveer’s campaign’, Mr. Langness was not notified of Vandeveer’s decision not to seek reelection, despite his working on the campaign the night before. Members of the communications team are always the first to be notified of such developments and often write the press releases. The fact that he learned of Vandeveer’s decision via Minnesota Public Radio and then was unsuccessful in ‘attempts to reach the senator’ gives me reason to pause. Given this, from my point of view, to portray himself as a trusted advisor and ‘campaign veteran’ seems to be a bit of a stretch, at best.

    Furthermore, regarding Mr. Langness’s qualifications…while I understand what he is attempting do through his bold baseless self-promotion, to compare a campaign for a local Board of Education position to a State Senatorial campaign is like comparing grapes to watermelon. There are few similarities. Instead of attacking her performance in the last election by asking, “How did she screw this up?”, I would suggest that Mr. Langness ask, “Wow! How did she close the voter gap in such a short time?” The answer would be that Karin’s messaging was spot-on in her campaign and very well received by voters in her run against the incumbent, Katie Sieben. Her loss by only 606 votes to an established incumbent is a win, not a ‘screw up’. Karin was more successful than any other previous opponent of Sieben in narrowing the voter gap.

    Finally, I would also like to point out that despite Sieben being elected, Karin remains committed to improving the lives of all residents within the communities of her old and new (due to redistricting) districts. She continues to host open forums to cultivate a culture of open dialogue within the District, often invites elected officials (and others) to speak, and remains active in pursing solutions to the issues we care about most today: creating jobs, improving education, and healthcare. She is accessible, bright and highly qualified to represent those in her district and other members of our State.

    We are looking forward to Karin Housley’s contribution to District 39 and the State of Minnesota as our next State Senator.

  • GOPNeighbor

    I see Langness has posted a snarky comment on his Facebook page: “….hardest thing about any political campaign is how to win without proving that you are unworthy of winning” by Adlai Stevenson. Perhaps a better quote for Langess would be: “Man is a strange animal. He generally cannot read the handwriting on the wall until his back is up against it” by the same Mr. Stevenson.

  • Jerry Johnston

    Congratulations Karin on your victory over Langness… Happy to see the voters could see through that character and now you can focus on Bunn.

  • Anna

    Congrats to Karin! I’m enjoying her book, “Chicks Laying Nest Eggs”.
    You can purchase it here:

    Some of my favorite bits of wisdom from Karin, about men:

    ” – Men are sensitive
    – They pretend not to be.
    – They hate new ideas, especially if it takes time away from them.
    – They will try to discourage, or at least belittle.”

    From Chapter 5, page 42.