Now that State Rep.Terry Morrow (D–St. Peter) has announced he will not be returning to the state legislature next year, local party leaders say they are looking for candidates to replace him.
Under Minnesota law, Gov. Mark Dayton can set the date for a special election as soon as he's aware of an impending vacancy, even if the seat isn't officially vacated.
The latest the election can be held is mid-February, though local party leaders are expecting it to be held mid-January.
"Whenever you do a special election, because the time-frames are so tight, logistically it just moves very quickly," said Karen Foreman, member of the DFL Senate District 19 board.
Foreman said that Morrow will be hard to replace, but finding a new candidate and getting him or her in place for a special election race cannot wait. Though specific details on how the party will go about finding a new candidate still need to be worked out, Foreman said the local DFL group will likely form a nominating committee before certifying a candidate.
"There's always a possibility that if there are two or three candidates, we'll need to hold a primary," Foreman said.
According to Minnesota law, there must be at least a two-week gap between a primary and general election, which means if the election is held mid-January, a primary would occur shortly after the first of the month and candidate filing periods would be likely be shorter than a week.
But reaching out to everybody during the holidays could be difficult.
"Delegates that were at the convention a year ago may not expect to get notices to attend another one so soon," Foreman said. "But we have a very good district, and we'll be able to work things out and get it done."
Peter Trocke, chair of the Nicollet County Republican Party said the group's reaction to the news was immediate and they started looking for a candidate the same night Morrow made his announcement.
"We have started the process," Trocke said. "Last night to be honest. We will have a candidate without a doubt. And I'm sure it will be a very capable candidate, one that can win the seat."
Trocke said he thinks the GOP will have a distinct advantage in the special election race due to the nature of Morrow's resignation, submitted less than two months after he was re-elected.
"I think first you have to look at the fact that Terry Morrow may have had plans to leave Minnesota before he was re-elected," Trocke said. "Special elections cost a lot of money and Morrow is wasting taxpayer dollars by doing this. People are going to remember that come next election."
Morrow announced his resignation on Dec. 19 and will serve out the remainder of his term, which officially ends when the next legislature convenes on Jan. 8.
In a letter addressed to his colleagues, Morrow said he will be leaving to take the position of legislative director of the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) based in Chicago. According to the letter, ULC approached him shortly after election day.
"The ULC provides states with non-partisan, well-drafted legislation that brings clarity and stability to state statutory law," Morrow wrote. "This is an exciting opportunity for me to continue contributing to the public good in a new and challenging manner."
Morrow, who has two children, said he and his wife will both remember St. Peter fondly.
"Departing a community and college and friends with whom we have shared our lives for almost 20 years led us to reflect carefully on this choice, " Morrow wrote. "Living here, raising our children here, working here has been a blessed experience for Martha and me."
Originally from New York, Morrow moved to St. Peter in 1995 and began working as a communication studies professor at Gustavus Adolphus College. After serving on several St. Peter commissions and boards and a brief stint as chairman of the St. Peter School Board, Morrow decided to run for house in 2006, replacing long-time incumbent and Democrat Ruth Johnson.
Morrow is at the tail-end of his third two-year term and represents District 19A, parts of which were formerly district 23A.
Morrow is the vice chair of the High Education Finance and Policy committee and serves on the Agriculture Policy, Rules and Legislative Administration, Transportation Finance and Ways and Means committees.
During his six years in the house, Morrow has argued for safer highways, focusing specifically on Highway 14 near Mankato and has been a strong supporter for education funding and reform.
"My work with the district’s parents, teachers, farmers, businesses, local leaders, and others has left a lasting impact upon me," Morrow wrote. "My legislative colleagues have taught me how to govern with compassion, intelligence and commitment to the public good. I will take the lessons I have learned in Minnesota about sound policy and public service and apply them across our nation and overseas."
Reach reporter Jessica Bies at 507-931-8568 or follow her on Twitter.com @sphjessicabies