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Published November 02, 2010, 11:47 PM

Minnesota GOP Pushes Toward Legislative Majorities

Republicans reached toward majorities in both chambers of the Minnesota Legislature, defeating Democratic incumbents in three suburban Twin Cities districts and leading in other races that could flip party control of the Statehouse.

By: Associated Press,

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Republicans reached toward majorities in both chambers of the Minnesota Legislature, defeating Democratic incumbents in three suburban Twin Cities districts and leading in other races that could flip party control of the Statehouse.

Four-term Sen. Leo Foley, a Democrat from Coon Rapids, lost to Republican Benjamin Kruse in the northwestern suburbs, while five-term Sen. Don Betzold fell to Republican Pam Wolf in the Fridley area. Both incumbents headed budget panels that oversaw areas of state spending.

In the House, Republican Pat Mazorol knocked off first-term Democratic Rep. Paul Rosenthal in a Bloomington-Edina district. The top House Republican, Kurt Zellers, easily fended off a Democratic opponent in Maple Grove.

Republicans need a gain of 13 seats to control the Senate and 21 to win a House majority.

All 201 legislative seats were on the ballot, but control of the chambers was expected to come down to a couple dozen key races.

The critical contests Tuesday were in several Twin Cities suburbs and hot spots around the state, including the northwestern and southwestern corners and districts surrounding Rochester, Bemidji, Princeton and Cambridge.

Republicans ran aggressive challengers as they tried to bring national discontent home to legislative races. Democrats defended incumbents in the suburbs, northern Minnesota and the Rochester area, as they tried to hang onto both legislative chambers.

Democrats now control the House 87-47 and the Senate 46-21. The House has been under DFL control for the past four years. Democrats have ruled the state Senate since before party designations came into use in 1974.

The party that controls the Legislature will decide what to do on state taxes, determining how far the new governor gets with his agenda. Legislative majorities will confront a projected $6 billion deficit, address a push for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium and redraw political boundaries before the 2012 election.

Candidates for the Legislature have spent the election cycle campaigning by mail and in person on voters' doorsteps, with cable TV ads hitting the air in some competitive races. The issues have ranged from the budget shortfall to taxes, job creation, state construction spending and daily expense payments for senators.

State law limits legislative candidates' spending to five-digit figures, but the political parties and allied groups have funneled at least $2.9 million into contested House races and at least $2 million into Senate matchups. Those pushing to protect Democrats have spent about twice as much as GOP allies.

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