FAIRMONT - Minnesota Senate District 23 has the two candidates covering a lot of ground before the Nov. 6 election.
Voters will have a choice between political newcomer Paul Marquardt, DFL-Eagle Lake, and incumbent Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont.
Rosen was first elected in 2002. For the most part, the issues have remained the same over the past 10 years, she said. The district is still predominantly agricultural, schools are still facing declining enrollment, and Greater Minnesota lawmakers are still at odds with their metro colleagues over equitable funding.
"I feel good about the last two years," Rosen said, noting 48 of the bills she authored in that time period passed.
Her bill for the Vikings stadium received the most media attention, but she also takes credit for the community paramedics bill - the first of its kind in the nation. The bill allows EMTs certified as community paramedics to monitor and provide some treatment to patients with chronic disease, in order to prevent excessive ambulance and emergency room use.
"We passed a lot of really good bills for the district," Rosen said.
Looking forward, she wants to do more, and many of her goals are related to the committees on which she serves: Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications, as chairwoman; Health and Human services, as vice chairwoman; Agriculture and Rural Economies; Capital Investment; and Taxes.
"I have a laundry list of things I want to continue working on," Rosen said.
That list includes:
o Long-term care; market-driven consumer-based health care; and preventative care.
o Drug abuse, specifically focusing on prescription painkillers. Rosen previously authored legislation that was hailed for curbing meth manufacturing.
"The main thing is bringing back the jobs," she said. "A lot of our problems will be alleviated with that."
While everyone agrees on the issues, the solutions often vary. Partisan politics can prevent progress, but according to Rosen, conflicting priorities of metro and outstate lawmakers are the real dividing factor.
"That is by far the biggest challenge," she said.
Rosen has a bachelor's degree in agronomy and previously worked as an agronomist and marketing representative for American Hoescht Chemical Company and Elanco. She has three children in their 20s.
Marquardt frequently references his blue-collar background when he talks about his decision to run for Senate. His campaign literature highlights the 21 years he worked as a plumber in the Mankato and Waseca areas; his three years of active duty with Army Combat Engineers; his service on the Workforce Council and Youth Council for a nine-county area; and his love of the outdoors.
"A lot of us are living paycheck to paycheck, and that's what she doesn't get," he said, referring to his rival. "You can't take any more from the 99 percent. There's nothing more to take."
One way he believes the state could help taxpayers is to restore the Homestead Market Value and Renters credits. The state cut the homestead credit program last year, after failing for several years to fully refund cities and counties for the tax break.
Underfunding is a problem Marquardt says he hears a lot about, as he travels around the district talking to cities, schools, nursing homes, etc., and he thinks he knows why.
"The 1 percent needs to ante up a little more," he said, describing himself as a member of the "Hamburger Helper crowd that can't afford the hamburger anymore."
Other issues that concern Marquardt include:
o Implementing term limits for elected officials.
o Restoring the state's rainy day fund.
o Paying back money the Legislature borrowed from schools in order to balance its budget.
o Preventing future local government aid cuts.
o Closing tax loopholes.
o Creating jobs. One idea Marquardt suggests is the creation of mini-refineries at ethanol plants, where oil from North Dakota could be mixed with ethanol created in this area.
"We could create good jobs for people in our district," he said.
Marquardt describes himself as a conservative Democrat, and he says if elected, he will represent all his constituents, regardless of party affiliation.
One thing he will not support is constitutional amendments.
"Our communities need jobs! Our representatives were sent to St. Paul to create jobs, and we got constitutional amendments that were a complete waste of taxpayer time and money!" is one of the messages on his campaign literature.
Marquardt has been outspoken in his opposition to banning gay marriage and requiring voter ID.
"I don't think government should be telling people what to do," he said.