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Politics is like college sports: The best teams begin with an advantage because they recruit the best players, and the cycle continues. Politics is often the same. The most important part of an election happens well before a single speech, fundraiser or policy white paper: candidate recruitment.

Here's the challenge for party leaders trying to recruit candidates to run for the Legislature: The pay is $45,000 per year, or $25,000 less than Minnesota's median household income, all for a job that requires many of the 201 lawmakers to live far from family in a rented St. Paul apartment. The thanks they get: constituents who need favors and will be quick to turn on a lawmaker if he or she can't deliver.

And that's only if you get the job. Winning requires never-ending fundraising, glad-handing and door knocking, keeping up a cheerful optimism even though voters often don't know who you are — and don't care much, either.

This is why GOP operative Ben Golnik once drove hours to northern Minnesota — returning in a snowstorm so bad that he got in a wreck on the way home — to recruit Sandy Layman to run for the House against an entrenched DFL incumbent. She won and helped expand the GOP majority last year.

Now DFL operatives say Minnesotans on their side are heeding the call of Sen. Bernie Sanders to run for office, giving them more than one viable candidate in some districts.

Republicans own a commanding 20 seat majority in the House. Capturing 11 seats will be difficult for the DFL, but you can't beat something with nothing. Here are some of their early hopefuls:

Kelly Moller and Burt Johnson are running against first-term Rep. Randy Jessup, R-Shoreview. Moller is an assistant Hennepin County attorney and victims rights advocate. She worked in the attorney general's office for a decade. Johnson is an attorney for the carpenters union, a community volunteer and youth sports coach.

Zack Stephenson, another assistant Hennepin County attorney, is running in the northern suburban district held by Rep. Mark Uglem, R-Champlin.

Heather Edelson, first in her family to go to college, mom of three, Edina resident and active community volunteer, is challenging Rep. Dario Anselmo, R-Edina, whose district supported Hillary Clinton for president by 26 percentage points.

The DFL also likes their recruits in St. Cloud, Lakeville and Rochester. They will need many more.

J. Patrick Coolican • 651-925-5042 Twitter: @jpcoolican