Democratic Minnesota state Sen. Steve Cwodzinski won reelection Tuesday by beating Republican Marla Helseth for the District 49 seat.
According to unofficial voting results, Cwodzinski ended up with 26,448 votes, or 62.28% of the total ballots cast in all 29 precincts, while Helseth had 15,998 votes, or 37.67%.
The district encompasses all of Eden Prairie and southern Minnetonka.
Cwodzinski, who taught U.S. government and history at Eden Prairie High School for 31 years before retiring in 2016, has been in office since 2017.
His campaign focused on four core values during his campaign: healthier and safer communities, stronger schools, civility and voting rights, and environmental preservation and protection.
“Thank you, all of you, who helped the three of us get to where we are today, because if it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t be here,” said Cwodzinski, addressing a cheering crowd at an election party at Unmapped Brewing in Minnetonka on Tuesday night. Flanking him were Reps. Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn and Laurie Pryor, who also won reelection.
“With Thanksgiving coming up, not only are we thankful but we want to give back to you. Because now it’s our turn,” Cwodzinski continued. “We want to give back to you the schools that you deserve and properly funded. And we want to give back to you the environment, the Boundary Waters, that we take care of it, and we want to give back to you on everything you give.”
Helseth, who was running for political office for the first time, described herself as “just a regular person,” a wife, mother and former teacher who wanted to bring a “new voice and new energy” to the state Legislature.
She planned on focusing on education. “We really do need to work together on how we could better educate our kids to get them more proficient in reading and math and close the achievement gap,” she said.
On her Facebook page Wednesday, Helseth congratulated her “good friends” who won their races. She also thanked Cwodzinski for his civility in the campaign and for his service to the district.
Pryor prevails in District 49A
State Rep. Laurie Pryor, a Minnetonka Democrat in office since 2017, won reelection Tuesday by beating Republican Ryan Chase for the District 49A seat.
According to unofficial voting results, Pryor ended up with 14,213 votes, or 63% of the total ballots cast in all 16 precincts, while Chase had 8,331 votes, or 36.93%.
District 49A represents northern Eden Prairie and southern Minnetonka.
Pryor, who was seeking her fourth term, vowed while campaigning to advocate for “excellence and education, strong economic opportunities, high quality, and affordable healthcare and safe neighborhoods.”
“Whether it’s your grandchildren that you look at and worry about their future, whether it’s our LGBTQ, all of them together, these people we really care about and we are including in our victory tonight,” Pryor said at Tuesday’s event. “And, whether we take 50-plus on the victory side or a little bit short, everybody is part of this tonight, and everybody is part of the hard work that’s ahead of us, and we are so grateful that you are here sharing with us.”
Chase, a political newcomer who lives in Eden Prairie, viewed the economy, public safety and education as the three most important issues facing the state.
“I’m certainly disappointed with the results today, but am hopeful Laurie Pryor and the elected officials with listen to all concerns and solutions in order to make the best decisions for Minnesota,” Chase stated in a Tuesday email.
Kotyza-Witthuhn wins in District 49B
State Rep. Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn, an Eden Prairie Democrat in office since 2019, beat Republican Thomas Knecht for the District 49B seat.
According to unofficial voting results, Kotyza-Witthuhn ended up with 11,406 votes, or 57.62% of the ballots cast in all 13 precincts, while Knecht had 8,374 votes or 42.30%.
District 49B represents southern Eden Prairie.
During a September candidate forum, Kotyza-Witthuhn cited three issues of importance to her: investing more in public education and technical training programs, ensuring people have equal access to affordable health care, and taking action on climate change.
In an email Wednesday night, Kotyza-Witthuhn stated that “despite a barrage of outside money and last-minute attacks, Eden Prairie residents reaffirmed what many of us have always known — Minnesotans care about one another.”
She continued: “Our community always comes through and our neighbors said decisively that they care about our environment, they want fully-funded public schools, they trust women to make private healthcare decisions, they value our democracy, and they see right through those who try to divide us based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or political persuasion.
“My family and I live, work, play, and learn in Eden Prairie and we’re here for the long haul. Together, we will build a brighter Minnesota for all of us.”
During his first political campaign, Knecht defined himself as an “independent, hardworking voice for Eden Prairie” who would prioritize public safety, cutting living costs, and ensuring educational excellence if elected.
In an email Wednedsay, Knecht thanked his supporters and congratulated Kotyza-Witthuhn on her reelection.
“While I fell short of our goal, it was an amazing experience to listen and learn from Minnesota voters every single day,” Knecht stated. “Eden Prairie is truly a community of builders, and I am honored to have witnessed that time and time again throughout the
Jeff Strate contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: This story was updated Wednesday with comments from Thomas Knecht and Marla Helseth, and on Thursday with an additional comment from State Rep. Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn.
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