First GOP challenger for Al Franken's Senate seat emerges

Sen. Karin Housley threw her hat into the ring on Tuesday.

What's happening? 

Karin Housley, a Minnesota state senator representing the St. Croix Valley, has announced she intends to stand as a Republican in the special election for Al Franken's seat next year.

She's the first GOPer to announce a run since Sen. Franken announced his intention to resign, with Lt. Gov. Tina Smith set to take over his position in January.

Who is she? 

After growing up in South St. Paul, she married her husband Phil shortly after high school, and they have four children together.

Wait, Phil Housley? Yep, she's married to the former NHL star who is now the Buffalo Sabres' head coach. His hockey career meant their family criss-crossed the U.S., but they kept their "forever home" in the St. Croix Valley.

After working in the media out of college, Housley eventually went on to launch a real estate business, Karin Housley Homes, in Stillwater.

Now 53, Karin was first elected to the Minnesota Senate in 2012, where she serves as the chairwoman of the aging and long-term care committee and vice-chairwoman of the commerce and consumer protection committee.

What is she saying?

In her inaugural message, Housley hits on various GOP talking points of supporting small business, being anti-abortion, and holding big government in check.

But she distances herself, probably wisely, from the happenings in Washington D.C., with the Pioneer Press describing her pitch as "less a conservative ideologue than a can-do champion of Minnesota ideals with a conservative approach."

The newspaper notes that the Minnesota Republican Party has never endorsed a female candidate for Senate before, but the Star Tribune reckons she has an appealing profile and fundraising potential.

"You might be asking yourself: 'Why would anyone want to go to Washington D.C. right now and be part of that dysfunction that's called Congress?' Actually, I can't think of any place in this country more in need of someone like me right now," she says in her video.

"I was a new voice in politics when I was elected [in 2012], but I brought the old motto, 'Work hard, play fair and do the right thing,' with me."

What's her political record?

A quick check on her voting history shows that since 2012 she's voted in favor of reducing business taxes, the health reinsurance program, and the construction and repair of the state's oil pipelines.

She's voted against measures including the same-sex marriage bill, increasing the state minimum wage, and authorizing the sale of gun suppressors.

This past session she authored bills to establish an educator standards board, increase penalties for predatory offenders, and improve veteran care facilities.

She was also one of the authors of the Senate's bill to increase penalties for people who obstruct freeways while protesting.

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