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Longtime Minnesota state legislator Kent Eken will not seek reelection

The state senator has represented northwest Minnesota for 20 years

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Minnesota state Sen. Kent Eken says he will not run for reelection this year after serving the state legislature for nearly 20 years.
Don Davis / Forum News Service
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MOORHEAD — Longtime Minnesota DFL state legislator Kent Eken will not seek reelection this fall, he told The Forum.

One of the few rural DFLers remaining in the legislature, he's represented District 4 in the state Senate since 2013. He represented District 2A in the House of Representatives from 2003 to 2013.

Eken lived Twin Valley for much of his time in the legislature. He recently moved to a lake home south of Audubon in Becker County, but he remained in a new version of District 4.

He was a teacher before being elected to the Legislature.

"After much discussion with my family, I decided it's time to get back into teaching," said Eken, who has a degree in political science/education from Concordia College and master's in history from St. Cloud State. "It's something I've wanted to do for some time, and we decided this is the time to do it."

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As recently as a month ago, Eken said he was likely to run again despite headwinds facing Democrats in the midterm election, particularly those representing rural areas. Despite his district being changed through redistricting — and Eken's home area of Norman County being cut from District 4 — he said he believed he had a good chance of winning because strongly Democratic Moorhead remained in his area.

But Eken said the pull to get back into teaching combined with other electoral factors — longtime DFL Rep. Paul Marquart not running for reelection, increased political polarization, a tough environment for Democrats — all led to his decision.

"With the changing of the district, I did lose some of my home territory, and that was part of it, too," Eken said. "It wasn't a great number of votes, but they were important ones because they came from my home area."

Eken was active in long-term care, agriculture and rural development legislation during his time in the Senate. He is the ranking minority member on the Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee.

Three Republicans have said they'll run for Eken's seat. Moorhead Police Sgt. Joe Brannan announced his candidacy this week, joining former Moorhead city councilman Dan Bohmer and former Clay County Republican Party chairman Edwin Hahn.

Eken was the last remaining DFL state senator representing a district that voted for Republican Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election. The GOP holds a 34-31 edge in the chamber, with two independents.

"There's no doubt it's a tougher and more challenging environment," Eken said.

Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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