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Another long-serving DFLer to retire amid primary challenge

Sen. Dick Cohen has held his seat since 1987.
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Dick Cohen

Another long-serving DFL member of the Minnesota Legislature has announced they will retire at the end of their term, as they face a primary challenge from the progressive wing of the party.

Sen. Dick Cohen announced on Sunday he will step down once his term ends in January 2021, citing family reasons as well as a "one in a lifetime business opportunity" for his decision.

Cohen has represented District 64, covering the western neighborhoods of St. Paul, since 1987, having previously served in the Minnesota House from 1977 to 1979 and again from 1983 to 1987.

He was facing a challenge in the upcoming DFL primaries from former state Rep. Erin Murphy, who came second in the DFL primary in the gubernatorial race in 2018, ultimately losing out to now Gov. Tim Walz.

Murphy is among the progressive members of the DFL party, the growth of which has seen several primary challenges emerge against Democratic incumbents particularly in Twin Cities districts, as they seek to advance change within the Legislature.

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Just last month, St. Paul Rep. Tim Mahoney announced he'd be stepping down after 22 years in the Minnesota House, after 28-year-old Hoang Murphy announced he'd be challenging him.

In his retirement announcement, Sen. Cohen said: "It has been the honor of a lifetime to be able to represent the district in which I have lived all of my life."

As for the explanation for stepping down, he said:

"First, as some of you know, I have close family members who have significant and pressing family issues that will continue well into the winter. I owe them, and they deserve, my full attention and time. Second, during the last week I was presented with a once in a lifetime business opportunity, and I cannot say no. This opportunity requires some immediate work on my part and could involve some extensive out of state travel, with some of it during the 2021 legislative session."

Sen. Cohen's announcement was met with tributes from DFL members.

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