Longtime Legislator Denny McNamara beat out newcomer James E. Brunsgaard III in a Republican primary challenge Jan. 29.

After winning 85 percent of the vote in the primary, McNamara earned his spot on the Feb. 12 special election ballot for the vacant District 54 Senate seat. The seat was opened after former DFL Sen. Dan Schoen resigned in December amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

READ MORE: Three candidates battle for state Senate seat

"I really am humbled by the support throughout the district; it's cool to see," McNamara said. About 1,500 votes were cast in the Republican primary.

"I'm excited with the turnout and the percentage and it's firing us up to go real hard for the next 14 days," McNamara said.

McNamara won the party endorsement over Leilani Holmstadt of Cottage Grove and Bob Anderson of Hastings in December. Before the filing period for the special election closed in January, Brunsgaard filed as a Republican as well, triggering a primary election.

Brunsgaard, a self-described “Christian constitutional conservative” and military veteran, won 15 percent of the vote.

“I myself was in there to bring Christian constitutional conservative leadership into St. Paul and I could care less whether I was called Senator,” Brunsgaard said. “I think we need more citizens willing to step up to the plate and run and are not part of the normal system, but incumbents and endorsed candidates have a big advantage, and that’s hard to overcome.”

McNamara served in the House of Representatives for 14 years, until he decided not to run for re-election in 2016.

“I certainly appreciate Mr. Brunsgaard’s willingness to be part of the democratic process and put his name in to run for public office, it’s a part of public service to be willing to put your name in the hat and run,” McNamara said.

Brunsgaard said he will be supporting Hastings Libertarian candidate Emily Mellingen Feb. 12.

“She believes the same things I do, and unfortunately Denny believes in the swamp, and I don’t want people from the swamp running the state,” Brunsgaard said.

Editor's note: This story was updated 10:11 a.m. Jan. 30, 2018, with comments from  James E. Brunsgaard III.