Our choices for Minnesota Legislature
Endorsements from the Echo Press Editorial Board
District 8 Senator: Bill Ingebrigtsen
Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, is a leader at the Legislature who deserves another term in the Senate. He’s worked hard in the 13 years he’s been at the Capitol, building relationships, acquiring knowledge on a variety of subjects and fighting for the conservative values of his strong base of supporters in District 8.
Ingebrigtsen is the chairman of a key committee, Environment and Natural Resources Finance and is also vice chairman of the Finance Committee.
Ingebrigtsen listed three priorities facing the state – crime (holding criminals accountable), the economy (addressing the lack of affordable housing and daycare, and getting people back to work), and addressing the state’s looming budget deficit by balancing the budget.
Although Ingebrigtsen often rails against the other party a bit too strongly, in our opinion, he is a level-headed senator, who knows the needs of his district. He helped lead the bonding bill through the Senate and voted for it. The bill will provide $5.6 million for a much-needed expansion of the Runestone Community Center and gives $5 million to Pope-Douglas Solid Waste Management to build a new organics composting facility in Douglas County and a new environmental learning center in Alexandria. The projects will generate construction jobs and stimulate the economy.
The bonding bill fills real needs in our area and is a shining accomplishment of the Legislature this session.
Ingebrigtsen’s opponent is a new DFL voice in the district – Michele Anderson of Fergus Falls. She’s the rural program director for Springboard for the Arts and travels across the state and country, collaborating with rural leaders.
District 12 Senator: Torrey Westrom
Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, has been a hard-working fighter for rural Minnesota going back to when he was first elected to the Minnesota House in 1996. Through the years, he kept a strong base of supporters who voted him into the Senate in 2012.
Westrom, who lost his eyesight in a farm-related accident in 1987, has shown that he can overcome adversity and get the job done. This past session, Westrom supported the bonding bill that will deliver an economic punch for the area. The bill also provides federal tax conformity for business owners and farmers, allowing them to make tax deductions for equipment purchases – tax relief measures that Westrom has been pushing for years.
Westrom has also been a strong supporter for improving broadband access, authoring bills in 2017 and 2019 that provided $20 million in rural broadband funding. This past session, he supported a bill allocating another $27 million to broadband ($10 million of it from federal relief funds related to COVID-19), recognizing the urgent need for rural residents to have better access and internet speed.
Westrom has also earned key leadership roles in the Senate, serving as chair of the Agricultural Finance Committee as well as the the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, which supports natural resources and research projects throughout the state.
His DFL opponent is Jill Abahsain of Sauk Centre, a former mayor of Spicer. She graduated from the Universityof Minnesota with a degree in comparative religion and she and her future husband followed an academic life into the Middle East. She was widowed in 2007 but continued to work as an editor and columnist for an Egyptian newspaper. Later she worked for the Alexandria Adult Basic Education before retiring in 2016. She said she’s running for office because she did not want to see an unopposed incumbent on the ballot.
District 8B Rep: No endorsement
Our editorial board could not come to an agreement on who to support in the House District 8B race between incumbent, Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, and DFL challenger Carol Wenner of Alexandria.
Franson is the clear choice for the staunch Republicans in her district. She bases her votes on what she believes is best for her constituents in District 8B. People may disagree with some of her stances and comments but she says what she feels and people know where she stands. Franson also has experience on her side. She’s seeking her sixth term in office.
We do, however, wish that Franson would tone down the political rhetoric – she blames “radical leftists” and a “communist” governor for causing crime and suicide rates to soar and the economy to sputter.
We were also disappointed that Franson voted against a bonding bill that contained $5.6 million for the Runestone Community Center, $5 million for Pope-Douglas Solid Waste Management and tax relief for farmers and business owners. Franson said she could not support a bill that was not paid for with real cuts to the budget. She defended her decision on Facebook, saying, “For my constituents who are upset with my vote, the election is November 3rd.”
Wenner, who hasn’t held public office, acknowledges that she is not a politician but would bring an element of curiosity to the table. She said she thinks working together is better than scoring political points. She vowed to listen to constituents and be honest, transparent and accountable.
Wenner listed her top three priorities as health care, education and the environment.
Every elected official has to start somewhere and Wenner would likely work hard for her constituents and be a good listener, but she needs a stronger voice on issues to demonstrate that she would be a good option for the district.
District 12A Rep: Murray Smart
Voters in District 12A have two well-matched candidates running against each other again – DFLer Murray Smart of Beardsley and incumbent Jeff Backer, R-Browns Valley.
Backer served as Browns Valley mayor for six years and was on the school board for three years before serving three terms in the Legislature.
Backer serves on the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance Division, Health and Human Services Policy, and the Jobs and Economic Development Finance Division.
Backer listed the top three issues facing the state as public safety in urban areas, budget cuts rather than increased taxes, and more local control over schools.
Smart has an extensive background in education, serving 37 years at many schools in the Beardsley-Browns Valley area as a school counselor, teacher, coach and driving education instructor.
In 2016, Smart was co-chair of the Minnesota School Counselors Association and helped secure a “Support our Students” grant of $12.1 million to help Minnesota schools, with 52% going to rural districts.
During his campaign, Smart said his priorities are getting the economy going again, providing affordable health care, expanding broadband and passing a bonding bill.
Backer, concerned about tax increases, voted against the bonding bill, which passed with bipartisan support, through the House, 100-34, and the Senate, 64-3, and was signed by the governor. The bonding bill contained many measures that will benefit the region and rural Minnesota – wastewater treatment funds, tax relief for farmers and small businesses, flood mitigation in Browns Valley and more.
It’s a close call, but Backer’s decision to vote against the bonding bill tips the scale to Smart. He’s well qualified to serve the residents of House District 12A.
District 12B Rep: Paul Anderson
Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck, has proven himself to be a strong voice for rural Minnesota during his 12 years in office and has earned another two-year term.
He’s chaired the Agricultural Policy Committee and serves as the lead Republican on the Greater Minnesota Jobs and Economic Development Committee. He and his wife operate a family farm near Glenwood.
Anderson also has a solid background in leading at the local level, having served on his township board, school board and as a county commissioner.
The state’s economy is going through a rough time right now because of COVID-19 disruptions and Anderson’s experience in working with legislative deficits in the past will be valuable.
Anderson has shown an ability to work with the other party in resolving issues and searches for common ground.
Anderson’s opponent is Ben Schirmers, DFL-Sauk Centre, who ran against Anderson in the 2018 election. Schirmers also has a background in farming and is concerned with the loss of small dairy farms.
The above endorsements represent the opinion of the Echo Press Editorial Board, which includes Publisher Diann Drew, Director of Editorial Jeff Beach and News/Opinion Editor Al Edenloff.