Housley passes on U.S. Senate rematch in 2020

Republican Sen. Karin Housley said she will pass on a second U.S. Senate run and try to win a new state legislative term next year. Brian Bakst | MPR News.

St. Marys Point  -- There will be no rematch for U.S. Senate in Minnesota next year after Republican Karin Housley announced Tuesday she won’t challenge Democratic Sen. Tina Smith again.

“I want to have a family life. That campaigning is hard. Living in D.C. isn’t that appealing when my family is here in Minnesota and my husband is in Arizona,” Housley, 55, said in an interview with MPR News.

So far there have been no notable challengers to enter the race against Smith, who had $1 million in the bank as of early April.

Last year, Housley was the Republican nominee against Smith, who was appointed to fill Sen. Al Franken’s seat after the Democrat resigned in early 2018 amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

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In the special election last November to fill the remaining two years in Franken’s term, Smith beat Housley by more than 10 percentage points. Next year’s election will determine who fills the seat for a six-year term.

The state senator from St. Marys Point had been sizing up another campaign almost since the last one ended. 

Housley continued to criticize Smith frequently, met regularly with key campaign officials and sought ways to build up her profile at the Minnesota Capitol, championing issues related to elder care, for example.

But recent life changes -- her husband Phil recently took a new hockey coaching job for the Arizona Coyotes after having spent last season with the Buffalo Sabres -- caused her to reevaluate.

“That’s a long haul from D.C. to Arizona and I represent Minnesota, and if I represented Minnesota I would want to be in Minnesota,” Housley said.

Housley’s focus will now be on retaining her legislative seat in 2020 in a narrowly divided state Senate. Democrats say they intend to target her east suburban district, which encompasses Stillwater and hugs the St. Croix River from Lakeland in the south to Franconia in the north. Two DFLers have already begun campaigning.

“I can have much more of an impact on people’s lives by staying in the Minnesota Senate,” Housley said.

Housley was first elected to the state Legislature in 2012 and won another four years in 2016. In between, she ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor on Republican businessman Scott Honour’s ticket.

As for the U.S. Senate race, many in the party are watching for a decision from former U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis. He said in June that he would decide by fall. Others who are considering it include: former 21st Century Fox Corp. executive Bill Guidera, who has been active in the Minnesota Republican Party and 2018 attorney general nominee Doug Wardlow.

Minnesota’s race is one of 34 U.S. Senate elections across the country, many of which are viewed as more competitive at the outset. But the races that attract the most attention can shift quickly, and Republicans note that President Donald Trump intends to put more focus on Minnesota than past GOP nominees as part of his re-election campaign.