Senate District 54 stays blue after special election

Karla Bigham

DFL candidate Karla Bigham, 38, won the Feb. 12 special election for Minnesota Senate District 54 with roughly 51 percent of the votes. Republican Denny McNamara received 47 percent and Libertarian Emily Mellingen earned 2 percent.

Gov. Mark Dayton called for the special election after Dan Schoen resigned late last year due to allegations of sexual harassment.

Bigham, who is a Washington County commissioner and former state representative, said she was excited and humbled when she found out about the results.

“It’s amazing that so many people turned out in the middle of winter to exercise their civic duty and their right to vote,” Bigham said the morning after the special election.

While Bigham has experience as a former state representative, the Cottage Grove resident said there will still be a learning curve, explaining that she is going to take the time to learn the procedures of the Senate. With the upcoming policy and bonding year, Bigham said she is looking forward to supporting District 54, which includes part of South St. Paul. Some of her bonding requests will include funding South St. Paul’s library and infrastructure projects.

In a voter’s guide published by the Review earlier this year, Bigham said if she were elected she would prioritize funding for schools and roads. The day after the special election, Bigham said she is going to be fighting for the priorities of the residents of District 54.

“As I was on the floor, a lot of it is about working together. There needs to be a culture change in more than one way [at the Capitol] and I think my local and state experiences are going to help provide that leadership,” she said.

Bigham said she is going to make sure the state doesn’t continue to push its burden onto local taxpayers when it comes to education funding. She also said she will be fighting for transportation funding, adding that she believes the east metro continuously gets left out and doesn’t get its fair share.

Bigham said she is going to be a voice for all the residents of District 54 and encourages constituents to reach out to her if they have issues and concerns.

“I look forward to the opportunity to serve the residents of 54 in the Senate,” she said, adding her thanks to the volunteers and supporters of the campaign.

Bigham’s resignation from the Washington County Board of Commissioners will be effective Feb. 20. The county board will appoint someone to finish out Bigham’s term, which ends Dec. 31.

--Hannah Burlingame

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