BROWN COUNTY - With Tuesday's closure of November ballot filing, Brown County is set for competitive elections across all levels for the coming months.
Packed at the top
The legislative races for Brown County are packed this year, with two three-way races and full rosters for other races.
For Minnesota's First Congressional District, three-term incumbent Tim Walz faces Republican challengers Mike Parry and Allen Quist.
The two Republican candidates are locked in an intense battle to be the Republican challenger. A 14-hour, 23-ballot Republican endorsing convention failed to pick a winner, resulting in both candidates deciding to run all the way into the August primary.
Parry and Quist both say they need to attract independent and moderate DFL voters to win. This could prove challenging for them due to their histories of being criticized for extreme statements.
Parry previously came under fire for tweeting President Obama was a "power hungry arrogant black man" and he touts his antagonistic relationship with Gov. Mark Dayton.
Quist was criticized in 2010 for claiming defeating Obama, Walz and Nancy Pelosi was more important than fighting terrorism. A recent Mother Jones article on him has also dredged up a laundry list of prior extreme positions he has taken. Both also face the inherent danger of their race weakening whoever ultimately becomes the Republican challenger by having their sparring comments picked up by the Walz campaign.
Meanwhile, Walz has had a some popular bills, including his authoring of the wildly popular STOCK Act. He has also been a fundraising machine, raising four times the combined total raised by Parry and Quist.
But, Walz still face serious challenges. State redistricting has remade his district into a more competitive layout for his opponents. Anti-incumbency fervor inherently makes his run more difficult, much less any flak he faces for prior votes on controversial legislation like the Affordable Care Act. He was recently listed as one of the 20 most vulnerable incumbents by the national DFL party.
On the state level, another three-way race has emerged for Minnesota House District 16B. Republican candidate Paul Torkelson, DFL candidate James Kanne and independent candidate Jerry "Pike" Pagel are each vying for the November ballot.
Torkelson is well positioned as the de facto incumbent for the new district. Redistricting kept his old district mostly unchanged except for placing his home outside the district. He has since moved to rural Hanska to run in the district. He also benefits from his farmer background and work on rural legislation.
But, he faces an about face in election difficulty after running unopposed last year. He carried the cloud of negative opinion from last year's state government shutdown simply by being part of that session. It is also unclear whether his voting on the Vikings stadium bill will help or hurt his run.
Torkelson's DFL challenger Kanne similarly benefits from a farming background and carries some politically important stance for Brown County, such as being pro-life. He may face challenges from being fairly left-leaning on almost all of the rest of his platforms.
The wild card in the race is Pagel, who has yet to show whether or not his unusual campaign will have an impact on the race. His no-party and no-campaign contributions stance may carry some charm for voters. It also makes those taken-for-granted aspects of campaigning a liability for his opponents. But, these benefits are also his burdens. With no support from a party structure, it will make it much harder for become a known name and double the work he has to do. Similarly, by forgoing a vetting in a party endorsement, he will have to prove to voters he's knowledgeable enough about political issues to be electable.
On the state Senate side, freshman Republican incumbent Sen. Gary Dahms will be facing down former DFL legislator Ted Suss. The two appear evenly matched with nearly equal time in the Legislature and well-known names in their respective hometown areas. Suss has advantage in education with his recent time as superintendent of Wabasso Public Schools while Dahms has business background running his own insurance agency. What will create an edge between the two candidate remains to be seen.
Three of the four New Ulm City Council seats up for election this year have two candidates races.
A race likely to show some sparks will be the Councilor-at-large race between incumbent Charles Schmitz and Ron Larsen. Both men are not shy about being speaking their beliefs. Schmitz has not been afraid to lead with his council chair position, while Larsen was loudly outspoken in editorials during his time with The Journal. Larsen has periodically clashed with the council, sometimes accusing it of misconduct.
In Ward 3, incumbent Les Schultz will face Chuck Hanson, an assistant county attorney for Watonwan County. Schultz also has a background in law enforcement as director for the Brown County Probation Department.
In Ward 1, incumbent Ruth Ann Webster will face Joel Boehlke for the seat. Boehlke has argued that more emphasis on Ward 1 in the Council and has expressed skepticism about some of Webster's votes, such as the Minnesota River levee.
Finally, Ward 2 candidate Lisa Fischer will be running unopposed this year. She is currently filing the seat vacated by Todd Olson departure, and the election is for the remaining two years of Olson's term.
On the Brown County level, the elections will be quiet without any contested elections.
For Brown County Board, each of the incumbents filed for their seats. Dick Seeboth filed for First Commissioner's District, Jim Berg filed for Second Commissioner's District and Scott Windschitl filed for Third Commissioner's District.
Meanwhile, Brown County's Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisors filed unopposed. Clem Windschitl filed for Area 1 while incumbent Dick Schroepfer didn't file. Gary Rathman filed for Area 2, while incumbent Erv Windschitl didn't file. Incumbent Jack Vogel re-filed for Area 4 without any challengers.
Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org