Editorial - Our choices for House of RepresentativesBecause of redistricting, Douglas County is split into three Minnesota House districts for the upcoming election. Here are our choices on who should serve those positions.
Because of redistricting, Douglas County is split into three Minnesota House districts for the upcoming election. Here are our choices on who should serve those positions.
HOUSE DISTRICT 8B:
Voters in Minnesota House District 8B who are looking for a legislator who will work hard for the middle class, fight for local government aid (LGA) for rural cities and counties, and keep an open mind while working with, not against, the other political party, can find all those traits and more in the DFL-endorsed candidate, Bob Cunniff of Alexandria.
He doesn’t have a political background. He’s a retired elementary teacher and coach and worked at KXRA Radio as a sports broadcaster. He is, however, fully prepared to serve as representative of the people and through his campaign has demonstrated a good grasp of the issues and the challenges ahead.
He looks at information in a clear, unbiased way, relying on facts and statistics that aren’t tainted by political posturing or partisan cheerleading. He understands, for example, that the claim that the Legislature turned a $6 billion deficit into a “surplus” does not tell the complete story, that it amounted to a shell game that relied on a $2.4 billion shift in education funding that has not been fully restored.
Cunniff also understands that LGA is a lifeline to local governments that can’t be cut without consequences. LGA funding has been cut 25 percent over the past decade and remained flat since 2010, forcing local governments to make up for the funding through property tax increases. The lack of certainty over LGA funds also hamstrings local government’s long-range planning abilities.
We believe Cunniff will bring a voice of calm, clear-headed reasoning to the Legislature and work with other legislators while representing the best interests of District 8B residents.
His opponent is Republican Mary Franson of Alexandria, a mother of three children and former childcare provider who is seeking her second term in office.
DISTRICT 12A: SCOTT DUTCHER
Two of the three candidates seeking the house District 12A seat know exactly what local governments are up against when it comes to reduced LGA funding. Republican-endorsed Scott Dutcher serves on the Brandon City Council and DFL-endorsed Jay McNamar has served four years as Elbow Lake mayor. Despite LGA cuts and frozen allocations, they both helped their councils approve property tax decreases.
It’s a close call but we believe Dutcher deserves to take his skills to the state level as representative.
Dutcher rightly points out that too much LGA, about a quarter of the total amount in the program, is going to metro areas that are already benefitting from a larger property tax base. He wants to refocus LGA so it benefits the rural communities, such as Brandon, Evansville, Kensington and Millerville.
We’re impressed with Dutcher’s repeated emphasis on helping small businesses in this area. As the owner of a small business, a law firm, Dutcher knows that small businesses are the engine for economic job growth and supports job incentive programs and reducing commercial property taxes.
Dutcher doesn’t like how the Legislature balanced its last budget by shifting education funding and would help pay back $400 million by using state reserves or setting the money aside immediately before work begins on the next budget.
During his campaign, Dutcher hasn’t fallen into the trap of following his political party’s script word for word. He has pledged to reach across the aisle and get back to a time when elected officials put aside their partisan affiliations and did what was best for the state.
Dutcher will be a strong voice for a district that doesn’t have an incumbent. We believe that he would fight the hardest for the rural needs of business and residents in District 8B.
The other candidate in the race is Dave Holman of Morris, a retired educator. He is endorsed by the Independence Party and has been politically active for decades.
HOUSE DISTRICT 12B:
It’s difficult to make an endorsement in this race.
Paul Anderson of Starbuck is the Republican incumbent whose new district now includes part of Douglas County. He has more than 30 years of public service on his resume, including the last four as representative, along with background as Pope County commissioner, township officer and Starbuck School Board member.
The challenger is DFL-endorsed Rick Rosenfield of Alexandria who worked at Douglas Machine for 34 years, all the way up to a director position, before retiring in 2009. Rosenfield makes a case that his years of working for a vibrant, growing manufacturing company helped him acquire valuable skills for the Legislature as a problem solver, consensus builder and analytical thinker.
Anderson said he would make education and agriculture a top priority. Rosenfield would also focus on education, starting with paying back the money that was shifted away from education in balancing the budget. He would also strive to help the middle class so they could pump more money into the economy, which in turn would create more jobs.
Both candidates agree that Minnesota’s property tax system, with more than 50 classifications, is much too complex and needs reform.
Both of them believe that some cities are becoming too dependent on LGA and need to rely on it less in the future. Rosenfield suggests placing a cap on LGA.
The two have some basic differences in idealogy that fall along party lines but they both recognize that the art of compromise is needed to get things done at the Legislature.
Our editorial board gives the edge to Anderson because of his past experience at the Legislature and his grasp of the issues and problems that legislators will face in the next session.