Five Enter State Senate Special Election

Justin Krych, Michelle Lee, Stu Lourey, and Jason Rarick will appear on primary ballots in the state Senate District 11 special election. Justin Krych, Michelle Lee, Stu Lourey, and Jason Rarick will appear on primary ballots in the state Senate District 11 special election. |  Photo: Krych, Lee, and Lourey campaigns; Minnesota Legislature

Updated: January 04, 2019 04:08 PM

Five people have now entered a race for an east-central Minnesota state Senate seat going up for special election next month.

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Tony Lourey resigned from the seat Thursday after Gov.-elect Tim Walz announced that Lourey will serve as Human Services Commissioner.  A special election for the 11th District Senate seat is scheduled for Feb. 5, with a primary election on Jan. 22.

Five candidates had entered the race by Friday afternoon:

  • John "Sparky" Birrenbach with the Legal Marijuana Now party
  • Justin Krych, a deputy chair with the 8th Congressional District Republican Party
  • Stu Lourey, a Democrat who is the son of Tony Lourey and grandson of former Sen. Becky Lourey and worked for Sen. Tina Smith and former U.S. Sen. Al Franken
  • Michelle Lee, a Democrat who is a former TV news anchor and Congressional candidate
  • Jason Rarick, a Republican who has represented House District 11B since 2015

In a news release announcing his candidacy, Lourey said, "I'm proud of my family's commitment to this community and public service. Those are the values I grew up with. And I know I have to work hard—knock on thousands of doors, have countless conversations—to earn the support of voters here."

However, Krych said in a Facebook post announcing his candidacy that the seat does not belong to the Lourey family.  He wrote, "It belongs to the great, hard working, and proud people of Minnesota. If I am elected, there will be no new gas tax in our state!"

Lourey said he would focus on health care, education, and building strong communities if elected.

Meanwhile, Rarick said he has focused on broadband, transportation, and construction trade and contractor issues during his time in the House.  He was also the chief author of the bills for term limits and legalizing aerial fireworks.

"There's a lot at stake at the Capitol right now so it's important our Senate district has a strong voice in St. Paul," Rarick said in a news release. "I am excited to take the experience I’ve gained over four years in the House of Representatives and put it to work for the people of Pine, Kanabec, Carlton and St. Louis Counties."

Lee said access to affordable health care would be her top priority and said she believes it's only a matter of time before single-payer health care becomes a reality.

"I've made my home in this district for the past 38 years. My congressional campaign and decades as a broadcast journalist have provided me with the background and knowledge needed to understand and promote the needs and desires of the residents of this district in the Minnesota Senate," Lee said in a news release.

Candidates have until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 8, to file for the race.  More information on the special election is posted at

If Rarick is elected to the Senate seat, the area will see another special election for his House seat.  House District 11B covers the southern half of the Senate district.

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