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Karin Housley declares run for U.S. Senate in Minnesota

Karin Housley for some time has been mulling the idea of running for governor of her home state, Minnesota. But when her husband, Phil Housley, was hired last June to become coach of the Buffalo Sabres, she tabled the idea – at least temporarily.

But now, as a new political opportunity has arisen from the impending resignation of Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, Housley has decided to run for his seat in 2018.

Housley, a Republican state senator in Minnesota since 2013 who ran for for lieutenant governor in 2014 and lost, announced her intention to run for Franken's seat in a video message Tuesday morning.

"I get things done," said Housley, who is also the owner of a real estate firm, the author of a book on investing for women, and a former broadcaster. "I would love to represent you and be the new voice for Minnesota in the United States Senate. I'll bring the same Minnesota work ethic to D.C. and I'll work hard, play fair, do the right thing, and get things done."

Franken, a Democrat, announced earlier this month that he will resign his seat at the end of the year amidst misconduct allegations from multiple women.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, is planning to appoint Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to fill Franken's seat until a special election is held in 2018. Smith, a Democrat, is said to be interested in running in that special election. Housley is the first Republican to announce her intention to run for the seat.

Housley, 53, has been splitting her time between Buffalo (when the Sabres are in town) and Minnesota (when the team is on the road). Once the Minnesota State Senate returns to session in February, her plan was to spend most of her time in Minnesota.

That plan began to change over the past week. Housley was in Buffalo until Monday night, when she flew home to Minnesota for the Tuesday announcement. She planned to return to Buffalo Wednesday.

“It wasn’t in any of my thoughts," she said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. "I was 100-percent sure I was staying where I was. But when Franken decided to resign, I knew it was going to need a strong Republican that could be strong out of the gate, that already had name recognition, had already been in a statewide campaign and had the ability to fundraise."

Housley said the cultural shift that led Franken and dozens of other men to be outed for their alleged sexual misconduct was a factor in her decision, but not the only one.

"I looked at all the possible candidates we had in the party that could run, and thought, ‘You know what? This seat is for me.’ I need to step up and do this,” she said.

Presumably, with her Senate run, she will  spend more time in her home state even before the legislature opens session this winter.

Minnesota State Sen. Karin Housley and Buffalo Sabres head coach Phil Housley are at home on the banks
of the St. Croix River in Lakeland, Minn. (Angela Jimenez/Special to The News)

She said her husband Phil was “all in” and “super pumped” over the prospect of her running.

“Phil said, ‘You have to do it. This is your role, and this is exactly what you need to be doing for the people of Minnesota.’ ”

The Sabres issued a statement about her announcement, prior to the team's game against the Boston Bruins in KeyBank Center.

“I am so proud of Karin and this opportunity for her," Phil Housley said in the statement. She is such a driven woman and I totally support her decision. As she starts this new journey, I am beside her every step of the way.”

In an interview last month with The Buffalo News, Sabres co-owner Kim Pegula was asked if she and her husband, Terry, would support Housley if she ran for higher office. (At that point, the likely races were for governor or lieutenant governor in 2018, not Franken's Senate seat.)

"That would be great," Pegula said, clarifying that while she didn't want to "promote" Housley politically, she was supportive of her aspiration to serve at a higher level.

Karin Housley said she met with Kim Pegula over dinner on Saturday to share the news about her planned Senate run. She said Kim and Terry Pegula both were excited for her, as was team president Russ Brandon.

Housley said she has to raise about $15 million for the race, which she noted is considerably shorter than a traditional Senate campaign.

“It’s only 10 months,” she said. “The normal Senate races, you have a two-year runway to run. I just had to do it. It’s such an important seat, and we have a chance to take it back. I knew it would be a good fit for me, and a good fit for the state.”

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