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Year in review: Voters face packed ballots

Voters toppled a tax, flipped the state Legislature and approved a school levy, among other decisions, on a ballot stuffed with names and questions this November.

Minnesotans rejected two proposed constitutional amendments -- one to require photo identification at the polls and one to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

Locally, citizens were vocal about the marriage amendment. Red Wing Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays hosted events and urged Minnesotans to vote against the proposal. Others wrote letters and talked to residents pushing for its approval. Gay marriage already is illegal in Minnesota, but the amendment would have made that more difficult to change.

The state Legislature also saw a shakeup after all 201 seats in the House and Senate were up for election.

Democrats took control of both the House and Senate, joining a DFL governor to hold a majority in the coming 2013 session that starts Jan. 8.

That shift was evident locally, where Democrat Matt Schmit defeated incumbent Republican John Howe in a narrow and closely watched race that sometimes got heated.

Republicans Tim Kelly of Red Wing and Steve Drazkowski of Mazeppa were re-elected easily to the state House of Representatives.

In Red Wing, citizens defeated a proposed half-cent local option sales tax that would have brought in up to $14.88 million for capital projects.

The tax would have been used for work along the riverfront, downtown, at the Sheldon Theatre and for a joint Red Wing Area Seniors and Red Wing Collectors Society facility.

Council members voted 6-1 to put the question on the ballot. Some said they were moving the tax forward so citizens would have a say, while others vocally supported the proposal. Some noted they would have preferred a smaller package.

The Red Wing School District put three referendum questions before the voters this fall as well.

The first, which renewed the existing operating levy, was approved. But voters turned down another option to fund maintenance throughout the district and renovations to Burnside Elementary School and a third that would have funneled funds to improve and update the district's athletic facilities.

This month, the School Board discussed possibilities for a November 2013 referendum. While members haven't decided whether to pursue that option, a possible timeline showed steps such as forming a task force in January, completing a community survey in the spring and developing a communication plan by late summer.

"I think this timeline for 2013 will have a distinct advantage over what we had before," Chairman Mitch Boldt said.

The Red Wing School Board also had four candidates who ran unopposed this fall for open seats. Heidi Jones and Mike Christensen will return to the board along with new members Jamie Farrar and Mark Ryan.

Another closely watched race was that between Goodhue County Board candidates Ted Seifert and Paul Drotos. With a narrow edge of 112 votes, incumbent Seifert was re-elected.

One of the key issues in that campaign was frac sand mining. Drotos said he would like the county to ban mining, while Seifert wanted to develop strong zoning ordinances instead.

Incumbent Dan Rechtzigel succeeded over opponent Barney Nesseth with 50.68 percent of the votes for the District 5 seat. Commissioner Ron Allen ran unopposed for the third open board seat.

Other Red Wing candidates were before voters as well. Dennis Egan remained Red Wing's mayor over challenger LaVergne Dickerson. The City Council ended up with only one contested race that resulted in incumbent Ralph Rauterkus' re-election against Erik Fridell. Council member Lisa Bayley's opponent, Craig Livingstone, dropped out of the race, though his name still appeared on the ballot.

The council still will have a new member in Jason Sebion, who ran unopposed for the Ward 1 seat held by Dan Bender.

Sarah Gorvin and Regan Carstensen contributed to this report.

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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