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Democratic school board member Bianca Virnig won a special election Tuesday for an open seat in the Minnesota House, prevailing over two conservative candidates in the closely watched contest.

Virnig won the seat in the southern Twin Cities suburbs with 58% of the vote, while Republican candidate Cynthia Lonnquist, who ran in the district in the last two election cycles, earned 40% of the vote. Libertarian candidate Charles Kuchlenz came in third with less than 1% of the vote.

"Bianca's experience as a school board member will mean she can hit the ground running on day one to fight for fully funded public schools, affordable health care and reproductive rights," DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said in a statement on Tuesday. "Bianca's landslide victory speaks not only to her strong campaign but also to the strength of the DFL message."

Virnig, who lives in Eagan, has served on the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school board since 2021 and works for the parent-teacher organization at Deerwood Elementary School in the district. She prevailed in a four-way DFL primary for the seat in November and focused her campaign on education issues.

Starting in February, Virnig will take over the seat previously held by former DFL Rep. Ruth Richardson, who resigned in September citing the demands of her new job as CEO of Planned Parenthood. Virnig's addition will restore the Democrats' six-vote margin over Republicans in the chamber.

Richardson won the seat — which covers Eagan, Mendota and Mendota Heights — by more than 60% of the vote in the last election cycle.

But special elections in the middle of winter attract much lower turnout, and Republicans invested resources into the first race since Democrats passed a sweeping legislative agenda this spring. They campaigned on Democrats overreaching and not giving enough back to Minnesotans in tax cuts.

Full control of the Minnesota House will be decided next fall, when all 134 members are on the ballot. Democrats also control the governor's office and the state Senate, but neither will be on the ballot in 2024.