Special election win could impact gas tax, marijuana issues

February 08, 2019 07:03 PM

Republican Jason Rarick's victory in Senate District 11 in northern Minnesota breaks a Democratic hold on the seat that goes back several decades. Perhaps more importantly, having one additional seat could give Republicans the added edge they need to fend off efforts by Democrats to raise the gas tax or legalize marijuana.

"Now that we're at 35-32, it feels like a Grand Canyon of difference," Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) told 5 Eyewitness News this week. "Any day that I don't have 34 people here I can't move anything. Or any day one person has a disagreement, I'm stuck."

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That's because if just one Republican is absent, the party wouldn't have the votes to pass some legislation where senators vote along party lines. Or if one Republican decides to vote with Democrats, a 34-33 Republican advantage would turn to 34-33 win for the Democrats. A possible vote on a gas tax is a good example.

"There could have been a day that one of our people might have said 'I'm willing to compromise on that,'" Gazelka said. "At the very end I don't know what's going to happen, but I don't think a gas tax is going to be a part of it."

RELATED: Rarick gives GOP boost with Senate special election win

The same thing could happen on the recreational marijuana issue where at least one Republican senator says they're willing to consider voting for it.

Beyond specific issues, political analysts say the Rarick win gives the Senate Republicans a slight boost as they try to hold their majority in the 2020 elections.

"This gives them a little breathing room," said Annette Meeks of the Freedom Foundation. "But more importantly it solidifies Republicans moving further and further north in Minnesota."

Democratic analyst Darin Broton says it will still be too close to call because of inroads Democrats are making in suburban districts.

"It was a toss-up before, it's a toss-up now," he said. "Really, at the end of the day Senate Republicans have more seats they have to protect than Democrats do."

Gazelka is looking forward to it.

"This race is like a shot around the world saying 'Look, things are changing,'" he says. "I'm excited about it because it shows that we can win places we haven't won before."

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Tom Hauser

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