NEW ULM - Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Nelson Township) will formally announce today his candidacy for the open 16B Minnesota House district, which covers Brown County and nearly all Redwood County. He said he plans to move to Brown County in the near future to be legally eligible to represent the district.
Torkelson currently represents District 21B, which covers Brown County and portions of both Redwood County and Watonwan County. The new redistricting maps released on Feb. 22 moved Torkelson's hometown into the eastern 23B district that consists almost exclusively of the current district of Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Good Thunder). The new maps also placed Brown County, most of Redwood County and small part of Renville County in a new district that lacked any incumbent House representative.
After weighting his option, Torkelson decided to move to the open district with most of his old territory rather than faced down his politically strong colleague, Cornish, in an unfamiliar district.
Rep. Paul Torkelson
"Frankly, it's not been an easy decision. It's had a lot of difficult factors, including wanting to be close to my family and my farm, " said Torkelson.
Torkelson said there was strong urging in his hometown district for him to stay, but his new portion of Watonwan County only accounts for a small piece of the whole county with only approximately three townships.
He said he plans to live on the southernmost part of Brown County so he can remain relatively close to home. He said he wants to be able to continue to help his wife care for his elderly mother and her mother and father. He said he also wants to keep connected to his farming operations at home.
He said he hasn't selected a specific location to live in Brown County yet.
Torkelson will have until May to take up residency in Brown County to be legally eligible to run for 16B. Minnesota requires six months of residency in the district before the elections to be eligible.
According to Minnesota Secretary of State election data from the 2010 elections, the new district will create a more interesting race for Torkelson. The Brown County portion of 16B remains a Republican stronghold, while the area Redwood Falls and the portion of Renville County have a heavily Democrat strain running through them. Torkelson retain his advantages of being a farmer in a rural district, as well as being a well-known name in Brown County and Redwood County. However, the new district gives any DFL challenger a fighting in the 2012 elections.
Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org