ST. JOSEPH -- Republicans have won a high-stakes special election to keep control of the Minnesota Senate.

GOP state Rep. Jeff Howe beat Democrat Joe Perske, a county commissioner, on Tuesday. Howe's victory preserves Republicans' 34-33 majority.

Howe says his win is a bright spot for the state GOP on a night where they lost several state-wide races.

"Well, it at least means we're going to hold our own. We're going to have a majority in the Senate, and that's huge for the GOP."

The district surrounding St. Cloud is considered safely GOP but Democrats pounced on a chance to retake control of the chamber. The Senate was left deadlocked at 33-33 after Republican Sen. Michelle Fischbach vacated her seat to be sworn in as lieutenant governor.

Both candidates played up their experience in the area as outside political groups poured hundreds of thousands of dollars in to influence the race. Howe has represented half the district in the House.

Perske was also the former mayor of Sartell.