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MN lawmaker won't run for re-election, citing party politics at the Capitol

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Rep. Joe Atkins is the latest state lawmaker to announce he won't seek re-election.

The DFL legislator confirmed in a statement Tuesday afternoon he won't contest his Inver Grove Heights seat in this year's elections, as he intends to run for Dakota County Commissioner.

He was first elected in 2002, and will have served seven terms in the Minnesota House.

He says he was attracted to a role on the Dakota County board as it's "nonpartisan," saying he "never really got comfortable with the amount of partisanship at the Capitol."

"I have been successful in bridging the partisan divide to get good things done, passing more bipartisan laws the past seven years than any other state representative," he said. "I am most proud of laws I have authored to improve fire safety, protect public safety personnel and their families, help police find missing children, toughen meth and sex offender laws, help students and their families afford college, and protect senior citizens from scams."

He also said he was just as proud of work assisting individual constituents, saying he helped a local man get life-saving treatment "wrongly denied him by his New Jersey-based insurer," and assisted with saving a family's home "from an unscrupulous lender."

MPR reports that the move from state lawmaker to county board isn't rare, and adds that county positions pay "several times more" than the $31,140 salary earned by state legislators.

Atkins was in the news this past weekend when the Star Tribune reported GOP lawmakers had raised concerns about his involvement with the BEST Foundation, where he's a director.

The newspaper says his three children received college scholarships from the nonprofit education foundation, prompting the concern, but the foundation said that applications are anonymous and he had no involvement in the scholarship selection process.

Atkins is among a growing list of legislators who have recently announced plans to not seek re-election. The Pioneer Press’ Rachel E. Stassen-Berger has kept a running list of politicians who are planning to move on.

On Saturday, state Sen. Jim Metzen announced he would be stepping down after more than 40 years in the Legislature.

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