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Voters unseat two Republicans in Rochester
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Carla Nelson was one of two Rochester House Republicans who lost out to DFL-ers in the ellection (Image courtesy of Rep. Carla Nelson)
Democrats made some surprising gains around the state election night -- especially in the Rochester area. The community has long been known as a GOP stronghold. But that changed significantly when voters unseated two Republican incumbents. Now for the first time in more than 30 years the city will have DFL representation at the Capitol.

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Image Representative Bill Kuisle

Rochester, Minn. — Bill Kuisle admits his mouth sometimes gets him in trouble. Recently he sent an email around to republican colleagues urging misbehavior at a Rochester event hosted by a Kerry supporter Carol King. Kuisle's the Republican Assistant House Majority Leader. On election night he lost to Andy Welti a 24-year-old substitute teacher. Kuisle says he thinks a number of factors led the loss although probably not anything he said.

"I think basically it was the do nothing legislative session and we couldn't shake that here in Rochester and it really affected us," surmises Kuisle.

Other people argue the problems stated long before that. Tina Liebling's a Democrat who focused her campaign for House Seat 30A around a trio of issues -- health care, education, and jobs. She says there have been clear signs of trouble for Rochester Republicans for some time. As a result she was confident she would win.

"When I ran in the last election in 2002 the Republican candidate didn't even get 40-percent of the vote and I think the writing was on the wall then," says Liebling. "Then of course we had John Kerry here for a rally and we turned out and packed the Civic Center auditorium."

Liebling's opponent Carla Nelson says she was shocked when she heard she lost shortly before midnight. Nelson says she's still sorting out what went wrong.

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Image Representative-elect Tina Liebling

"Our races were targeted by the Democrats and there were hundreds and thousands of dollars pumped into these races as far as attack adds on radio, TV or in the mail. I don't know how much sway that had," says Nelson.

Another powerful Republican leader Fran Bradley narrowly retained his seat. He was in a close race with long time school board member Kim Norton. Early Wednesday morning that race was called in Bradley's favor by a just a little more than 300 votes.

Don Ostrom teaches political science at St. Olaf College in Northfield. Ostrom says what happened in Rochester Tuesday was part of a larger statewide trend.

"It wasn't just Rochester," explains Ostrom. "It was communities similar to Rochester. I think if you look at the education levels and the income levels of the suburban metro communities that switched over to Democratic candidates this time and to Rochester you would see a lot similarities, a lot of overlap."

Ostrom says while many in the Rochester area might identify themselves as Republicans, they may not agree with some of the more conservative views held by local candidates. As a result Ostrom says that probably gained votes for moderate Democrats like Tina Liebling.


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