Update: Gerlach steps aside for new Senate representation

He served Apple Valley, Rosemount area for 14 years

by Tad Johnson
Dakota County Tribune

Republican state Sen. Chris Gerlach of Apple Valley announced on Monday his retirement, effective at the end of his term this year, according to a press release.

Gerlach, who has served in the Minnesota Senate for eight years, preceded by six years in the Minnesota House, said he wanted to spend more time with his family and focus on his direct mail business. Gerlach and his wife, Shelli, have two children, ages 10 and 8.

The announcement comes six days before the Senate District 57 endorsing convention at which many expected him to be the new district’s candidate.

“While serving in the Legislature is truly an honor and privilege, the family and financial sacrifices are great,” he said in a press release. “Now is the time to reassess my personal priorities.”

Recent reports regarding Gerlach’s ownership in Eagan-based Capitol Direct and the mailing of fliers in support of the so-called Right to Work proposed constitutional amendment did not factor into his decision to retire, according to Kevin Ecker, Gerlach’s campaign manager.

Common Cause Minnesota asked Gerlach on Monday to disclose Capitol Direct’s client list.

The conservative political action committee Freedom Club paid for the Right to Work fliers, which were mailed in neighborhoods that have Republican senators reportedly reluctant about supporting the proposed amendment.

Capitol Direct’s website reported that Gerlach bought the company in the mid 2000s and brought with him “his values discipline, and business ethics, which reinforced the strong foundation of this already successful and growing organization.”

Gerlach would have run in the new Senate District 57, which largely went unchanged under the new redistricting plan. The district, which includes all of Rosemount and Apple Valley, adds Coates and a portion of northeast Lakeville, while losing a portion of southeast Burnsville.

Senate district leadership did not indicate if a candidate has emerged to seek the endorsement.

Apple Valley resident Mike Germain, who has run previously against Gerlach, has said that he will seek the DFL’s endorsement this weekend at the convention.

Gerlach’s retirement comes four days after House District 37B Rep. Kurt Bills, R-Rosemount, announced he would seek the Republicans U.S. Senate endorsement. The Republicans are seeking a candidate for that office (now called 57B), too.
Gerlach’s career

During his career, Gerlach served in both the Republican minority and majority, and as an assistant majority leader and majority whip.

He said in the press release that he was most proud of the opportunity to serve as the chairman of Senate Commerce Committee.

“It has been a great platform in which to promote free-market economics while balancing consumer protections,” he said.

In 2010, as the lead minority party member on elections issues, Gerlach said he was key to the successful bipartisan efforts that produced a wide-ranging package of election reforms including administration procedures, absentee ballot reforms, an earlier primary election and changes to campaign finance and reporting rules in the wake of the Coleman-Franken recount of 2008.

Gerlach graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in political science from the University of St. Thomas and earned a master of business administration from the University of South Dakota.

He maintained and deactivated weapons systems as a former captain in the U.S. Air Force.

Gerlach has served on the Dakota County Human Services Advisory Committee and as a board member of the Apple Valley Optimist Club – an organization dedicated to fostering a wide range of youth programs.

Tad Johnson is at editor.thisweek@ecm-inc.com.

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