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Published June 06, 2012, 04:03 PM

Crop of former Minn. lawmakers try for comeback

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A pivotal election for the Minnesota Legislature has lured 20 former lawmakers — most of them Democrats — into campaigns to return to the Capitol.

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A pivotal election for the Minnesota Legislature has lured 20 former lawmakers — most of them Democrats — into campaigns to return to the Capitol.

The list of former lawmakers seeking to return includes several who lost seats in 2010, Minnesota Public Radio News reported Wednesday. Others are running after being out of legislative service longer.

Republicans took over the entire Legislature in the last election, setting up fundamental clashes with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton over taxes and spending. Their differences led to a 20-day government shutdown last year.

Former Rep. Brita Sailer, a Democrat from Park Rapids, found it tough to watch the legislative gridlock after she was defeated by Republican David Hancock two years ago. Sailer is now running for an open seat after redistricting put her and Hancock in different districts. All 201 legislative seats will be on the ballot.

"I really care about what happens and the well-being of people around the state and my communities," Sailer said. "When I see a direction being taken that doesn't seem to serve them well, I get really frustrated about that."

Former Sen. Jim Carlson, a Democrat from Eagan, will get a rematch with Republican Sen. Ted Daley, who unseated him two years ago.

"A lot of us think the voters made a mistake in 2010, and we can probably reverse that mistake," Carlson said.

Several others on the ballot this year have been away from the Capitol even longer, including former Sens. Carrie Ruud of Breezy Point and David Gaither of Plymouth, both Republicans. Ruud lost to a Democrat in 2006, while Gaither left in 2005 to work as then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty's chief of staff.

"In Brainerd, we have the highest unemployment in the state of Minnesota. So, I think my community needs some attention," said Ruud, who will face the winner of a Democratic primary for an open seat.

Another familiar name on the ballot is Ron Erhardt of Edina — but this time the former Republican House member has switched sides. Erhardt lost his seat in 2008 after he helped majority Democrats override Pawlenty's veto of a transportation spending measure. This year, he will face Republican Bill Glahn for an open House seat.

Erhardt said he wants to return as a Democrat because he doesn't like what his former party is doing.

"I don't think they're doing right by the state," Erhardt said. "Everybody knows you've got to cut some expenses, but they want to tear everything limb from limb if they can."

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