Ron Erhardt (politician)
||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (March 2009)|
|Member of the Minnesota House of Representatives
from the 49A district
January 8, 2013
|Preceded by||redrawn district|
|Member of the Minnesota House of Representatives
from the 41A district
42B (1991–1993), 42A (1993–2003)
January 8, 1991 – January 5, 2009
|Preceded by||Mary Forsythe|
|Succeeded by||Keith Downey|
October 23, 1929 |
|Political party||Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (2010–present)|
|Republican Party of Minnesota (until 2008)|
|Spouse(s)||Jackie (until 2001, her death)|
|Alma mater||University of Minnesota|
|Occupation||financial planner, legislator|
Ron Erhardt (born October 23, 1929) is a Minnesotan politician and member of the Minnesota House of Representatives. A member of the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL), he represents District 49A, which includes Edina in Hennepin County.
Until July 2008, Erhardt had been a registered member of the Republican Party of Minnesota and had always ran as a Republican. For nine terms he achieved fairly easy election victories, even when other Republicans did poorly. In 2006 he still won with 59.5%. However, during this time District 41A has gone from Republican-leaning to a swing district with candidates of both major parties succeeding in the same elections. Such as supporting Democrats John Kerry in the 2004 election and Amy Klobuchar for US Senate in 2006 while at the same time voting strongly for Republicans such as Jim Ramstad followed by Erik Paulsen for U.S. Congress, and for the subject of this article, Ron Erhardt, who won as an endorsed Republican in those same 2004 and 2006 elections with a 60% plurality.
Erhardt was a long time Republican, acting as a fiscal conservative and a social moderate. Erhardt claims to base his positions and votes on the predominant views of the voters of his district. He is known for knocking on most doors in his district and running a legislative poll of his constituents on major issues. Like most members of the Minnesota House, he sent an annual report of issues to every household. He received many awards from a wide variety of organizations in recognition of his many years of service. His primary area of legislative work in his latter years was in transportation, although he co-authored bills in other areas as well. Previously, Erhardt served on the House Committees for Transportation Policy (Vice-Chairman), Taxes- where he, as ranking minority member, authored a major revision of Minnesota Real Property Taxes, Transportation Finance, as well as long time service on the Ways and Means Committee.
Erhardt was originally elected to the House in 1990, and was re-elected eight consecutive times as an endorsed Republican. In 2008, Erhardt ran for re-election as a Moderate Independent after losing the Republican Party's endorsement to Keith Downey, a more conservative Republican. Local Republican leaders were upset with Erhardt's liberal views on abortion, gay rights and with his support of the over-ride of Governor Pawlenty's veto of the Transportation bill.
In February 2008, Erhardt was in the news when he, along with five other Republicans in the Minnesota House of Representatives, voted with House Democrats for a successful override of Governor Tim Pawlenty's veto of a statewide transportation bill. Since 1939 only 14 vetoes have been overrode (of which 12 fall into the tenure of Independence Party Governor Jesse Ventura). Erhardt had been instrumental in the drafting of this bill. It included a graduated increase in the gas tax dedicated to highway and bridge repair and construction. It also gave metro counties the option of increasing by 0.15% the sales tax to fund transit projects, an option later approved in 5 of the 7 metro area counties. The legislature's veto override vote was the first successful veto override of Pawlenty's administration. Supporters of the bill, including the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and the Minnesota Transportation Alliance, argued that an increase in funding was needed for highways and transit, especially after the nationally mourned Highway 35W bridge collapse. The flat gas tax had not been increased since 1988. Critics of the bill, including Governor Pawlenty, opposed any tax increase and also opposed investment in mass transit. Erhardt explained his vote to override the veto by pointing out that 61% of his constituents in Edina supported the bill.
In 2008 Erhardt chose not to challenge the endorsed Republican, Keith Downey, in a primary contest and instead ran without party affiliation as a "Moderate Independent". Erhardt was endorsed by the Independence Minnesota Party (the successor to the Independence Party which previously elected Governor Jesse Ventura). Erhardt was also endorsed by twenty-five major business, environment and labor groups, twenty other political leaders and elected officials from both major parties and by the Star Tribune. His independent candidacy led to a three-way race which included Democratic-Farmer-Labor (Democratic Party in Minnesota) endorsed candidate Kevin Staunton.
Each of the three candidates garnered around one-third of the vote. Republican-endorsed Keith Downey, won 37%, thus securing the victory and his first term. Erhardt and Staunton split the moderate and liberal voting base. A post-election editorial authoried by Chief Political Editor Lori Sturdevant in the Star Tribune states that had it been a two candidate race, either Staunton or Erhardt would have easily beaten Downey because Edina was formerly leaning conservative, but which now leans more moderate to liberal.
In 2010 Erhardt ran for the DFL endorsement but lost to and eventually endorsed Kevin Staunton. He has since become an active member of the DFL.
In 2012 Erhardt ran for the DFL endorsement unopposed. On November 6, 2012 Erhardt was elected to represent the new District 49A as a DFL member. He has been named as chair of the House Transportation Committee.