It's been four years since Ron Erhardt served in the Minnesota House. The newly-elected state representative from Edina already has nine terms under his belt, but that was when he was a Republican legislator.
He's now a Democrat, and DFL leaders have already picked him to chair the House Transportation Policy Committee. Erhardt said he's ready to roll.
"It's as if I hadn't left," he said.
Erhardt isn't alone. In all, a dozen former state legislators are making political comebacks with the help of voters. Some won back seats they lost just two years ago. Others have been away much longer. But they all have enough experience to help them get a quick start in January.
Erhardt said he's not surprised by the number of former legislators who ended their retirement. After partisan budget fights and a state government shutdown, Erhardt said a lot of people were disgusted by what they were seeing at the Capitol.
"Some of us at least have some respect for the institution, and we'd like to see whatever was going on there for the last couple of years mended and back on track for the state to make progress, positive movements, positive progress for getting things done," he said.
Erhardt is among eight House DFLers making comebacks. Connie Bernardy of Fridley returns after a six-year absence. The other former representatives were defeated in 2010 and turned the tables this year, including David Bly of Northfield, Tim Faust of Hinckley, Sandra Masin of Eagan, Will Morgan of Burnsville, Jerry Newton of Coon Rapids and Paul Rosenthal of Edina.
David Bly said he's excited to return to the House, and pleased to be part of a DFL majority.
"I had hoped that voters would see with the shutdown and other things that it would make sense," Bly said. "We lived with divided government for a long time, and it might be interesting to see what could happen if we did have a Legislature that was of the same party as the governor."
In the Senate, DFLers Kevin Dahle of Northfield and Jim Carlson of Eagan are set to return after defeats in 2010, although Dahle must first survive this week's recount in District 20.
Sen.-elect Alice Johnson of Spring Lake Park returns to the Capitol after the longest absence — 12 years. She served seven terms in the House from 1987 through 2000. Johnson said she too was concerned by the recent partisan gridlock.
Democrats will control both chambers of the Legislature and the governor's office, but Johnson said that doesn't mean everything will be smooth sailing. She still remembers the last time her party ran the whole show back in the 1980s.
“There'll probably be more disagreement amongst Democrats than what some people might think.”Sen.-elect Alice Johnson
"There'll probably be more disagreement amongst Democrats than what some people might think," she said. "I think there'll still be disagreements of course with Republicans, and there will be disagreements with the governor."
There's also one Republican making a comeback. Carrie Ruud of Breezy Point is returning to the Senate after six years. She lost a re-election bid in 2006. Ruud said she can build relationships on both sides of the aisle to get things done, and she isn't especially concerned about the DFL in control of both chambers.
"I think for the most part everyone has the best interest of the state at heart," Ruud said. "I don't think the DFL is going to overreach because they have the majority. Because they know if they do that, in two years they will definitely not be in the majority anymore."
The Senate's freshman class includes some additional familiar faces. There are four DFLers and three Republicans who won Senate seats after serving last year in the House.
Minn. lawmakers making a comeback:
Connie Bernardy, DFL-Fridley
David Bly, DFL-Northfield
Ron Erhardt, DFL-Edina
Tim Faust, DFL-Hinckley
Sandra Masin, DFL-Eagan
Will Morgan, DFL-Burnsville
Jerry Newton, DFL-Coon Rapids
Paul Rosenthal, DFL-Edina
Jim Carlson, DFL-Eagan
Kevin Dahle, DFL-Northfield
Alice Johnson, DFL-Spring Lake Park
Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point