Pandemic is major issue for both Dist. 16B candidates


BROWN COUNTY — The Minnesota State House District 16B seat is up for election in just over a week. Brown County residents who have yet to cast a ballot have eight days to choose between incumbent Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) or challenger Mindy Kimmel (D-New Ulm).

A high percentage of votes have already been cast, but the candidates are still making the pitch to voters.

Asked why he is the best candidate for 16B, Torkelson said:

“I think I am a good match for the district. The house seat has a history as a conservative district.”

Torkelson cited his 12 years of experience and his recent accomplishment in getting the Highway 14 expansion funded. He pointed to his work with water infrastructure and agriculture issues.


Kimmel said she was the best candidate for fixing the deep partisanship at the Capitol.

“I think people are sick and tired of partisanship,” she said. Kimmel believes voters are sick of political games.

“We need someone who will be a voice for rural voters, who won’t side with special interests and will actually work with both sides,” she said.

As the campaign enters its last leg, the two candidates agree the COVID-19 pandemic will play the biggest role for voters.

“COVID continues to dominate the news, and we will have to deal with it,” Torkelson said. “I don’t think anyone knows how it will end, but we need to keep as much of the economy open while keeping the most vulnerable members of the public safe.”

Torkelson was also concerned about the state budget, especially with the looming deficit. He believes the deficit, and continued civil unrest, will be major issues in the state.

Kimmel said the pandemic was the biggest issue in voters’ minds; especially in terms of how it impacted the economy and schools. Kimmel said as winter approaches many are concerned about whether schools can continue in-person education, which many students need.

This election is unique in that mail-in voting and early voting will play a larger role than in past elections, but both candidates were supportive of the process.

Kimmel believes voting would be split 50/50 between in-person and mail voting.

“I think the people concerned about health will vote early, but some people like the tradition of voting on Election Day,” she said.

Torkelson said he knew many people who had already voted. He said the townships have been doing mail voting for years, and it was a great way to better research the candidates by taking time with the ballot.

“We enjoy it,” he said. “For us, it is a great thing.”

Torkelson said election security would be a greater concern this year and encouraged voters to make sure they vote in the correct precinct as accidents are possible.

Kimmel also had a positive view of early voting. She praised the Brown County Auditor’s preparation for higher mail-in voting. She also supports the ballot drop box at the Brown County Courthouse as an effective solution for individuals worried about ballots arriving on time.

The last day to vote is Tuesday, Nov. 3.


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