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Claflin unseats incumbent Franke in state house race

ST. PAUL — DFL Challenger Anne Claflin came from behind to unseat GOP incumbent Keith Franke in the race to represent state house District 54A.

Final but unofficial results show Claflin, of South St. Paul, with 9,300 votes. Franke, of St. Paul Park, finished with 8,925 votes. 

Her victory flips the district back to its tradtional blue. Franke, the former mayor of St. Paul Park, won the seat in 2016, a victory that, while close, nevertheless helped the House GOP pad its majority and turned House District 54A red for only the second time in decades.

Reached by phone, Franke said that his stance as a moderate and his refusal to move in lockstep with the GOP, proved his undoing.  

“It’s hard in this divisive world to be a moderate. It doesn't matter how much good you've done and how much you’ve voted against your party, all people look at are the R’s and D’s," he said.

"Ultimately, the politics of character assassination have taken over. “

Franke's legislative accomplishments include the passage of a bill requiring an HIV/AIDS strategic plan. He co-authored the bill with Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis. The bill, signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton, requires the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services to create a plan to decrease the number of newly infected HIV or AIDS patients.

“Everything I did I reached across the aisle,” Franke said. “All my bills were bipartisan.”

He also authored legislation authorizing $1.2 million to ensure a greater level of care for elderly and vulnerable adults. He also helped carry the HERO Center, for which bonding was approved this session, into the bonding bill as members of the capital investment committee.

Claflin is a union local president and research scientist at Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, did not return a call seeking comment.

District 54A includes the west half of Cottage Grove, St. Paul Park, Newport, Grey Cloud Island Township and part of South St. Paul.

At a candidate forum in September, Claflin said her top three priorities are clean water, jobs and education funding.

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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