With a decisive victory over an embattled Republican challenger, Sen. Steve Murphy said he'll be seeking a top leadership role in the Senate as the legislative session nears.
Murphy cruised to a 14-point win over Wabasha's Steve Drazkowski, defeating the Republican 17,512-14,630 in Senate District 28.
"We got our message out there and people responded," the Red Wing Democrat said of a platform that supported education, affordable health care and transportation issues.
The defeat of Majority Leader Dean Johnson opens the door for new leadership among Senate Democrats. Murphy confirmed he would seek out such a role, noting that he feels he's gained strong leadership skills while working under Marine commanders and politicians like Johnson.
Drazkowski and Murphy attributed some of Tuesday's Democratic tidal wave to the war in Iraq and sinking support for President Bush.
"I think there's anger," Drazkowski said of public sentiment regarding the war, adding that it's "manifested itself in anti-Republican sentiment."
He faced several stumbling blocks along the campaign trail, beginning with allegations of domestic assault against his daughter.
After being acquitted of the charge early this year, Drazkowski included child-protection reform in his campaign platform.
He lost his party's initial endorsement, but dealt a stunning blow to Steve Wilson in the primary election. Republicans endorsed Drazkowski in a rare post-primary endorsement in October.
"I stood up to the them and truth prevailed," he said of the allegations, which heaped on late last month after his daughter's involvement in the campaign became pivotal.
Looking forward to January, Murphy said he's eager to join lawmakers in getting back to work.
"We're going to roll up our sleeves, hop in there, and attack that budget," he said of this year's tax bill.
Once the legislative session begins, Murphy said he'd like to focus on education, health care and a comprehensive transportation package.
Partisan efforts have kept transportation proposals from both caucuses from gaining traction, he said.
"We've got to break that logjam," the Transportation Committee chairman said.
With Democrats making huge gains in the House and growing its control in the Senate, Murphy said he doubts DFLers will railroad partisan initiatives through. He said he can "guarantee you that" a liberal agenda won't take hold.
"The only thing we're going to do is help provide an avenue for those moderate Republicans, so they can get on board," Murphy said. "
The Senate 28 race was virtually unaffected by a late-blooming move by Wilson. On Nov. 2, the former Republican endorsee filed for write-in candidacy.
Wilson said Tuesday that the move wasn't aimed at sending a message, other than to support the democratic process. He filed after learning from some devoted supporters that they'd be inking his name on ballots.
"I'm not going to stand in the way of someone's vote being counted," he said.
Whether he'll continue to pursue his aspirations of a career in politics, Drazkowski said he was uncertain, but "will continue to consider that."