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A successful past, a hopeful future

Winston Churchill famously said democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. Some of us may have felt that way as we watched the election results pouring in last week.

I am greatly honored that you again put your faith in me and reelected me to the state House of Representatives. But I am, at the same time, saddened that many of my colleagues from around the state won't be returning with me.

But I respect the process and the voice of the voters. It is, by far, the best system.

The two years we served in the majority were very productive, even historic, for the state of Minnesota. We expanded health care coverage through the creation of MNsure, providing quality affordable insurance to more than 300,000 of our friends and neighbors. We funded all-day kindergarten, saving many Minnesota families thousands of dollars a year. We followed through on our promise to lower the property tax burden on the middle class; repay the money previous legislatures borrowed from our children's schools to fill their budget gaps; and structurally balance the state's books without the use of budget shifts or gimmicks. We made historic investments in our kids' schools and froze tuition at our state public colleges and universities. We opened the doors of marriage to all loving, committed couples. We eliminated many of the barriers women face in the workplace.

Yes, I was disappointed many of my fellow Democratic-Farmer-Labor members lost their House seats. But we can take solace in the fact that we never backed off our commitment to you to please the monied interests that paid for the attack ads we endured for so many months.

So where do we go from here? I want to make one thing crystal clear: The faces and seating arrangements may have changed, but the DFL's principles haven't. I am committed to fighting for the middle class, our working families and our students at every level.

My colleagues across the aisle now must face the reality that it is easier to make promises to voters than it is to make progress in the lives of their constituents. The message on which they ran was that Minnesota needed divided government. But Minnesotans will not stand for a divided state. They will not tolerate the gridlock and inaction of the 2011-2012 legislative session.

Our state is inarguably in a better place than it was when we convened on January 8, 2013. We must continue to move forward together for the state we love, regardless of whether we call ourselves Democrat or Republican.

We have much to do. We need to finally address our ailing transportation system. We need to make sure all Minnesotans have access to the high-quality, high-speed broadband that is so vital to every aspect of our lives. We must continue to work to ensure that a college education is available to every person who wants it and that the debt facing graduates isn't burdensome. We have to enshrine in law the simple, commonsense principle that a woman should make the same wage as a man doing the same job.

Our framers envisioned an electoral process that would be a marketplace of ideas. But the elections are over. Lawmakers sought their positions so they could serve their neighbors. We must now unite to do just that. We must put aside the party labels and focus on the one adjective that unites us all: Minnesotan.

Erik Simonson (DFL) is the Minnesota state representative for District 7B.

Erik Simonson

Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, represents District 7 in the Minnesota Senate. He may be contacted at (651) 296-4188.