ST. PETER - The DFL endorsement convention for the Minnesota House 19A vacancy will be held Saturday morning in North Mankato.
Candidates are teacher and union leader Robin Courrier of North Mankato, MSU faculty member Clark Johnson of North Mankato, hog farmer Karl Johnson of St. Peter and St. Peter Mayor Tim Strand.
The Republican Party chose its candidate last week by overwhelmingly selecting Allen Quist, who was soundly defeated in November by three-term Democratic incumbent Tim Walz in the 1st Congressional District.
The Independence Party has selected area agri-businessman and author Tim Gieseke as its candidate
Robin Courrier has taught for nearly three decades in Mankato and is president of Mankato's teachers union. She said she feels her strength lies in her involvement with hands-on leadership role as a union leader and her knowledge on education matters, particularly with pre-K-12.
She serves on the governing body of statewide teachers union Education Minnesota and feels that she has the strongest chance of earning its endorsement. All the candidates have been screened by Education Minnesota and the notes were sent to the group's leadership in St. Paul. Education Minnesota will decide whether it will announce its support today or after the endorsement process.
Courrier feels she can clearly represent the views of the majority that elected President Barack Obama, former 19A Rep. Terry Morrow and U.S. Rep. Tim Walz in November.
Tim Strand, mayor of St. Peter, feels he can be competitive because of his work in Nicollet County and St. Peter. He said that his leadership roles with the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and the League of Minnesota Cities gives him hands-on experience and contacts in the Minnesota Legislature.
He decided to run when he saw Allen Quist was likely to be the Republican candidate. He feels the majority of 19A voters would find him preferable option to the divisive positions shown by Quist.
Clark Johnson, a faculty member at MSU-Mankato, feels his single-minded drive will make him bullish in guaranteeing work gets done on difficult topics like a four-lane expansion for Highway 14 or a sustainable state budget. He feels he has an advantage over the other candidates in gaining the student votes at Gustavus Adolphus College and in getting the students out to vote.
On running against Quist, Clark Johnson said he feels he can make himself seen as a clear alternative to Quist's "divisive focus on social issues." He feels he can be an unifier, something he has never seen from Quist.
Karl Johnson, a hog farmer and former president of several pork producer organizations on the state and national level, feels his strength in the endorsement and in a 19A race against Quist is his ability to reach rural voters. He said he has strong name recognition in the district, making him able to peel away voters from Quist's demographics, as well as being able to run without needing to spend money on introducing himself to voters.
All the DFL candidates previously said they would abide by the endorsement, and party leadership indicated they expected unity in the process.
However, Karl Johnson declined to comment Thursday when asked if he would abide by the endorsement. He acknowledge purchasing ads for his candidacy that started Thursday and will air through the weekend in the Mankato area. He also has ads planned for the middle of next week in a wider area, including KNUJ in New Ulm.
The DFL endorsement convention will be held Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at the North Mankato Fire Department on Howard Drive in North Mankato.
The primary election for 19A is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 29 and the general special election is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 12.
The district includes portions of Le Sueur County and all of Nicollet County, which includes the cities of St. Peter, North Mankato, Nicollet and Courtland.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at email@example.com)