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Candidates emerge after lines are redrawn

Minnesota's new legislative lines are causing new developments on the local political scene.

A five-judge panel redrew the lines, which were released last week, to reflect population shifts.

In just the last few days, several candidates have announced campaign plans for this fall's election, including:



Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, announced Friday that he will seek re-election in the new Senate District 8.

Ingebrigtsen lives in Alexandria and has represented much of the area since 2006.

"While district lines will change, my priorities have not," Ingebrigtsen said. "I will continue to work for lower taxes, greater personal freedom, and an economic climate that advances job creation for all of Minnesota."

The newly drawn legislative lines placed Ingebrigtsen in the same district as fellow Republican senator, Gretchen Hoffman of Vergas. Hoffman announced Friday that she'll be running against U.S. Representative Collin Peterson.

In Douglas County, District 8 includes most of the city of Alexandria, 10,415 residents, and nearly half of the eastern portion of the county.

Ingebrigtsen stressed that he continues to serve District 11 and new boundaries will not be effective until the fall. He added: "It truly is an honor to represent the residents of Senate District 11, and I continue to welcome any legislative questions and concerns."

Ingebrigtsen currently serves as assistant majority leader and chair of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee in the Senate.

Prior to serving the Minnesota Senate, Ingebrigtsen served in law enforcement for 34 years, 16 of those years as Douglas County sheriff.



State Representative Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, announced that he will be running for the new District 12 Senate seat.

The district includes parts or all of Big Stone, Douglas, Grant, Pope, Stearns, Stevens, Traverse and Wilkin counties.

Communities in the new district reach from Albany on the east to Breckenridge and Ortonville on the west.

Westrom, the current State Representative from District 11A said he is excited for the new challenge and opportunity. "Serving citizens in the interests of Minnesota is one of the best things I've done in my life - other than my family," Westrom said.

Westrom lost his eyesight in 1987 in a farm-related accident near his parents' farm. He was first elected in 1996 to the Minnesota House of Representatives and was the first blind legislator elected in the state of Minnesota.

He has served in a leadership capacity in the House including chairing the Civil Law Committee and speaker pro tempore this session.

Westrom said that it is important for state government to continue to redesign and live within its means. "Taking the state from the huge deficit of $ 5 billion last year to a $1 billion surplus this year shows great improvement and a step in the right direction to get the state's fiscal house in order," he said.

Westrom said he will continue to use his agricultural and small business background to improve job opportunities and redesign government - not only for greater government efficiency but also to ensure the right services are getting to the right people.

"Enhancing rural Minnesota life and opportunities is in my blood," Westrom said. "I look forward to meeting and listening to the voters of Senate District 12."

Westrom is a graduate of West Central High School (Elbow Lake), Bemidji State University and the William Mitchell College of Law. As a small business owner, he and his wife Anna and family reside in Elbow Lake. Some of the other communities also included in the district are Evansville, Sauk Centre, Melrose, Belgrade, Glenwood, Starbuck, Morris and Wheaton, among others.



Scott Dutcher of Brandon announced his candidacy Friday for the Minnesota House of Representatives in District 12A.

Running as a Republican, Dutcher will be vying for the seat left open after Westrom announced that he would be running for state Senate.

"Representative Torrey Westrom is a role model for any legislator," said Dutcher. "He is diligent, amiable, reliable, and he sticks to his guns. He leaves big shoes to fill."

The new district includes Big Stone, Grant, Stevens, Traverse, Wilkin and parts of Douglas and Pope counties.

"I am running because I believe that together we can rebuild this state and this country," said Dutcher. "We will create a better environment for jobs and businesses throughout western Minnesota by encouraging entrepreneurs to invest in our people and our communities. This will not be easy and it will not be quick, but with the right outlook of lower taxes and pro-growth, pro-jobs policies in St. Paul, we can improve people's lives here at home."

Dutcher lives with his wife and two sons in Brandon. He is a partner in a law firm in Alexandria and serves on the Brandon City Council.

"I am extremely proud of the work we have done in Brandon. In the last year we completed a new water and sewer project with costs below budget, we cut the city's tax levy by nearly 5 percent, and we were still able to find a way to give our hard working staff a raise. That was a huge win for our citizens."

Dutcher is also a member of the executive board of the Republican Party of Minnesota. For the past several months, he has been a part of a small group of party leaders charged with reforming the Republican Party after the disclosure last fall of previously unreported debts.

In January he was appointed to lead the party's committee that will propose a reform package at the state convention in May.



Judd Hoff of Forada first announced his DFL candidacy for House District 12A on Facebook last Tuesday.

He said the DFL Party remains the only viable party with the most accessibility and concern for the plight of the common man.

"I unflinchingly support the principles and concerns of the Occupy Wall Street movement and want to channel its youth and energy into the DFL in an effort to reform the DFL and get it fighting for us regular people again," he said.

Hoff describes himself as a Christian who believes that the Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches people to take care of and love one another. "I believe that what we do to the least of men, we do to Christ," he said.

Hoff believes the Republican Party is out of touch with the common people and caters to the wealthy. He faulted the GOP for taking away the homestead property tax credit and slashing aid to local governments, nursing homes and public schools.

Hoff is originally from the Forada area and has lived and worked in many places throughout the district as a block layer, truck driver, welder, and more recently as a mechanic and scrapper.

He and his wife, Trista, have been married 15 years and have six children. They plan to open a damaged grocery store called "The Dented Can" in downtown Hoffman this spring.

Hoff is the son of a combat wounded World War II Army ranger, who downed enemy aircraft during the attack on Pearl Harbor. He credited his father for teaching him how to fight and be tenacious.

"I intend to challenge politics as usual and have the ranks of the poor and ignominious behind me," Hoff said. "I have the workers, and the growing numbers of poor people behind me. I have the Occupy Movement, and its supporters behind me, so let's just see what happens."

More details about Hoff's campaign can be found on his Facebook site.



Vergas Republican Gretchen Hoffman has entered the race for Minnesota's 7th Congressional District, challenging 11-term Democrat Collin Peterson.

Hoffman is a former nurse and small business owner and is currently serving her first term in the Minnesota Senate. In her announcement, Hoffman vowed to give Peterson his toughest challenge to date.

"Like many of my neighbors, I've grown increasingly frustrated with Washington politicians who continually fail to clean up the mess they've created with their mountains of wasteful spending," said Hoffman. "Collin Peterson has simply been in Washington too long and has lost touch with his Minnesota values. I look forward to the coming campaign and building a winning coalition of Minnesotans who want to see fiscal responsibility return to our nation's Capitol."

Hoffman has received a 100 percent rating from the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and a "Best Friend of the Taxpayer" award from the Taxpayer's League of Minnesota for her work in the state Senate.

Hoffman was born and raised in North Dakota, but has been a resident of Minnesota for more than 30 years. She has been married to her husband Virgil for 29 years, and they have three grown sons, Jonathan, Joseph and Douglas.

Hoffman and her husband are long-time members of the National Rifle Association.


For Republicans:

• Douglas County Republican Convention - Saturday, March 3 at the Alexandria Senior Center starting at 7 p.m.

• Senate District Endorsing Conventions - mid to late March.

• 7th District Congressional Convention - March 30-31 at the Broadway Ballroom in Alexandria.

• State Republican Convention - May 18-19 at the St. Cloud Civic Center.

For DFLers:

• Douglas County DFL Convention - Monday, March 12 at the Alexandria Technical and Community College (ATCC).

• Senate District Endorsing Convention - date to be determined.

• 7th District Congressional Convention - Saturday, April 21 in Mahnomen.

• State DFL Convention - June 1-3 in Rochester.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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