After absence, Myhra seeks old House seat

Original article published at Sun Thisweek by John Gessner

Had run for higher office

Pam Myhra, a former Republican state representative from Burnsville who served two terms before seeking higher office, is running for her old seat in the House of Representatives.

Myhra announced her bid at an Aug. 19 meeting of Senate District 56 Republicans, after local party leaders launched a “Draft Pam Myhra” campaign. Myhra is seeking the House District 56A seat held by first-term DFL Rep. Hunter Cantrell, of Savage. The district covers four northwest Burnsville precincts and all of Savage.
Myhra said she terminated her state House campaign status in late 2018 and had no plans to run again, even rebuffing a suggestion from her husband this spring.

The draft effort by District 56A Republican Party Chair Brian Ewoldt and directors Matt Day and Jackson Harvey changed her mind, she said.

“These three individuals who’ve served in the capacity of chair of this House district really believe that I have what it takes,” said Myhra, 62. “I’m excited and eager to get back. Serving in the Legislature is a lot about listening to the community and listening to neighbors and working on issues that we really care about. I think one of the things that’s been a hallmark of my public service is my willingness to listen to people and show respect.”

Myhra’s announcement comes more than a year before the November 2020 election.

“Obviously, there’s a Democrat in that seat now. We want to take that seat back,” said Harvey, who launched a “Draft Pam Myhra” Facebook page in early August. “We think that Pam is an excellent candidate to do that. She’s a hard worker, great campaigner and very well-respected from when she was in the Legislature and her recent campaigns and involvement in other organizations.”

Drew Christensen, the Savage Republican who held the seat for two terms after Myhra left, has been “noncommittal” when asked by local party officials if he would run again after losing to Cantrell in 2018, Harvey said.

Christensen didn’t return a reporter’s phone call.

A longtime Burnsville resident and 1975 Burnsville High School graduate, Myhra was a local party officer before her first election in 2010 in the old District 40A. She was re-elected in 2012 in the newly drawn District 56A.

Instead of seeking re-election in 2014, Myhra ran for lieutenant governor on the ticket of Republican gubernatorial candidate Marty Seifert, who finished third in a five-way primary. Myhra briefly sought the 2016 Republican nomination for Minnesota’s 2nd District congressional seat.

In 2018 Myhra was the Republican candidate for state auditor, losing to DFLer Julie Blaha by 49 percent to 43 percent. Myhra is a certified public accountant who had put her career on hold to raise and home-school her three children but reactivated her CPA license three years earlier.

“It’s hard to lose. I didn’t expect to lose,” Myhra said, noting that she was the only Republican candidate for statewide office endorsed by the Star Tribune newspaper in 2018. “I ran through the finish line. But quite honestly, no regrets.”
The “Draft Pam Myhra” Facebook page characterizes Cantrell as “extreme.” It says there’s “little room for error” if Republicans are going to regain the seat lost in 2018, when DFLers flipped control of the Minnesota House and made major inroads in suburban districts.

“I’m told that losing the support of suburban women was a big part of the reason a lot of Republicans lost last election,” said Harvey, of Savage. “It certainly doesn’t hurt us, if Pam is our candidate, that Pam is a woman. I don’t like to play identity politics, but it certainly doesn’t hurt us.”

Myhra is a past president of the Minnesota Federation of Republican Women, which expanded under her leadership, the Facebook page says.

“Has there been an irreversible change in the suburbs” to DFL control? “I don’t believe so,” Myhra said. “I believe it’s partly the pendulum thing that happens in politics, depending on who’s the president and other things going on.”

Myhra unseated DFL Rep. Will Morgan in her first election in 2010, a big year for Republicans, and held her seat in 2012, a big year for Democrats, Harvey noted.

In 2012 and 2013 Myhra was the chief House author of legislation aimed at expanding disclosure of information behind public-employee buyout deals. The legislation was a response to local uproar over a Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District administrator who was paid nearly $255,000 in a settlement agreement under which she left the district with 18 months remaining on her contract.

The legislation broadened the range of local government management officials to whom disclosure requirements apply for agreements involving more than $10,000 of public money.

Her committee assignments over two terms included education finance and policy, early childhood and youth development and taxes.