2016 Election – Meet the Candidates
By Jason Sethre
Over the past two weeks, our incredible Journal team (Ellen Whalen, Michelle Haugerud, Jana Olson, and Abbey Norby) has worked tirelessly to assemble the most comprehensive candidate introduction we’ve ever published — from my historical reference.
Our team reached out to 100 candidates running for school board, city council, mayor, Fillmore SWCD supervisor, county commissioner, state senator, and state representative throughout our circulation coverage area.
Of those 100 candidates, 51 completed our Q & A form. We realize that all of these candidates lead very busy lives, so we appreciate the time that each candidate committed to answer our three general questions. And, they had to be very concise. The first two questions required a 50 word count limit, and the last question only allowed for up to 100 words. If you think about it, those word count limits can present a challenge for anyone.
So, thanks to all of our candidates running for office, and thank you for sharing your thoughts in what we hope will become a regular tradition for the Fillmore County Journal.
Now, let’s examine the political climate of our little corner of Southeast Minnesota.
What does the fox say?
On this year’s ballot, once you scribble your way through the presidential selection of Trump, Clinton and entire cast of unknowns, then you’ll whip through the line-up of heavy hitters for U.S. Representative — Jim Hagedorn (R) and Tim Walz (D). Walz, the incumbent, beat Hagedorn in the last election, and has held that elected position since 2007.
Next, you’ll pave your way through the more recognizable faces of candidates running for State Senator District 28 — Jeremy Miller (R) and Jon Pieper (D). Pieper challenged Greg Davids for State Representative of District 28B in the 2014 election, but ended up with a loss. In 2010, Miller, the incumbent, beat Sharon Ropes, who held that office from January 2007 to January 2011. Both Miller and Pieper have not shown a tremendous presence in Fillmore County, which means Winona County may be getting more of their face time.
After the State Senate bout, you’ll see Davids versus Trehus vying for State Representative of District 28B. Since 1991, Davids has only been defeated in one election, so Trehus has his work cut out for him.
The next most notable item on the ballot is titled “Remove Lawmakers’ Power to Set Their Own Pay.” The vote states: Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to remove state lawmakers’ power to set their own salaries, and instead establish an independent, citizens-only council to prescribe salaries of lawmakers?
Isn’t this like having the fox guard the hen house? What does the fox say? Who cares. What do the voters say?
In District 1 and District 3, Mitch Lentz and Gary Peterson, respectively, are running unopposed, so they have a guaranteed seat at the head table.
In District 5, Marc Prestby, the incumbent, has a competitor by the name of Vance Haugen.
Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisors
In District 5, Travis Willford is running unopposed. In Districts 3 and 4, there are two candidates each battling for one position.
Auditor/Treasurer & Recorder Referendums
The Fillmore County Commissioners have put two positions on the ballot that will change the organizational chart of county government.
Throughout America, every county in every state operates differently. For example, in Indiana, the candidates for sheriff must run with the endorsement of a political party. So, one sheriff may run as a Republican, another as a Democrat, and yet another as an Independent. Weird, but real.
In Minnesota, up until the early 1970s, county coroners and surveyors were elected positions. Today, county’s have the option of appointing the positions of auditor, treasurer, sheriff or recorder.
In Canton, Chatfield, Fountain, Harmony, Houston, Ostrander, Preston, Rushford Village, and Spring Valley, the mayor’s job is a lock as the ballot shows only one candidate per city.
For city council seats, Fountain, Harmony, Mabel, Spring Valley, and Whalan have as many seats as candidates, so “winner, winner, chicken dinner!”
And, in Chatfield, Joshua Broadwater is the only candidate on the ballot for Council Member at Large. Keep in mind, the voters can select up to three candidates. Broadwater can take this election to the bank and bring two write-ins with him.
With respect to school districts, Houston, Lanesboro, and Fillmore Central have three candidates on the ballot with exactly three seats to fill.
Meanwhile, Chatfield Public Schools has only two candidates, Gerald Chase and Amy Jeffers, with three seats up for a vote. It appears, for both Chatfield City Council and School Board, there are opportunities for citizens to step forward and serve — unopposed.
For the communities of Houston, Lanesboro, Mabel, Peterson, Whalan, and Wykoff, there are more mayors than chairs. As a matter of fact, there are three people running for mayor in Mabel — Laura St. Mary, Brian Street, and James Westby.
In the city council races, Canton, Lanesboro, Ostrander, Peterson, Preston, Wykoff, Rushford Village, and Whalan have a line of candidates vying for a limited number of positions.
Looking at school districts, Mabel-Canton has four candidates on the ballot to fill three seats, while Kingsland has five candidates to fill only three seats.
Races to watch
The Kingsland School District will be facing some big decisions in the upcoming years. Should they keep the middle school open in Wykoff? Should they invest more money in their Spring Valley facilities? How are they going to address losses resulting from open enrollment?
The City of Wykoff has had some ups and downs dating back to 2014 when Mayor Lyman Hare resigned after a no confidence vote. This election could yet again change the direction of city leadership, both council and mayor.
And, then there is the City of Peterson. There could be a dramatic change of mayor and several council seats.
While voters may be a little unsettled by the race for President of the United States, their local voting power will always be relevant and tangible. So, get acquainted with the candidates, the local issues, and then VOTE on November 8.