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Retiring GOP Sen. Geoff Michel says he wants to finish strong

Michel has a bill pending that places a 10-year term limit on legislators. Monday he followed his own recommendation.

Sen. Geoff Michel

State Sen. Geoff Michel has a bill pending this session that places a 10-year term limit on legislators.  Monday he followed his own recommendation.

After serving 10 years as the Republican senator from District 41 in Edina and west Bloomington, Michel decided not to seek another term.

He sounded more upbeat than he has in months when he cited as his reasons his growing family and his desire to return full time to his job as legal counsel at Securian Insurance.

“There was zero frustration, zero concerns [about the Legislature],” he said. “The last couple of years have been the most fulfilling, the most fun. What an honor to be in the majority.”

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Michel was a pivotal player in the events surrounding the December departure of Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch after she admitted to an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate staff member.

As assistant majority leader, Michel took the lead in explaining the details of the resignation to the media. Later, he admitted he had blurred the timeline of events to protect a whistle-blower. Then he, too, stepped down from a leadership post.

Now, Michel says he wants to finish strong.

He wants the Legislature to pass his jobs bill, which offers a hefty dose of tax and regulatory relief. A focus on the economy, or lack thereof, was the reason Michel broke with his party to vote no on the so-called Castle Doctrine legislation that expands the definition of self-defense. (Last night, Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed that bill.)

“I want to see the 2012 session focus on core economic concerns,” he said. “Also, I really think that Republicans need to build more bridges with law enforcement groups, and that bill goes in a different direction.”

It was one of the few occasions when Michel was not in step with the majority caucus, which has a more conservative bent than the district he represents. He denies, however, that he felt any pressure from the right wing of the party.

“I think, in general, it’s fair to say the tent has shrunk,” he said. “The two role models I cherish are [former Congressmen] Bill Frenzel and Jim Ramstad, and if anyone ever suggested, ‘He’s a Frenzel Republican, a Ramstad Republican,’ I’d be proud.”

Lynn Swon, Senate District 41 co-chair, received word from Michel Monday morning on his decision not to run again. “It was both a surprise and something we should have expected,” she said.  

Swon said there’s no official search committee but also no shortage of candidates-in-waiting, although none publicly declared. Swon’s also feeling pretty good about the redistricting that in effect turns Senate 41 into Senate 49. “The whole of 49 has become more Republican with a net gain of Republican precincts,” she said.

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Michel expects a lengthy list of contenders. “An open seat is always much more attractive,” he said.

Swon credits Michel personally for the candidate possibilities:  “When you have a strong incumbent, you have a strong bench.”