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Gunther endorses Olson’s bid

FAIRMONT — State Rep. Bob Gunther, R-Fairmont, believes the political endorsement process holds value, and so has thrown his support behind Elmore Mayor Bjorn Olson in the Minnesota House District 23A race.

Gunther is retiring from the seat after serving the region for 25 years. On May 19, Olson won the Republican Party’s endorsement to replace Gunther, defeating two opponents — Fairmont engineer Michael Sukalski and Jackson economic development coordinator Tom Nelson. But the endorsing convention stirred some controversy.

The convention was held by phone because of the COVID-19 pandemic, making it an unusual “gathering.”

Olson received 59.8 percent of the vote on the 8th ballot, with the percentage rounded up to the necessary 60 percent to give him the win.

Gunther sees the endorsement as entirely valid, and says Olson would have topped 60 percent on the next ballot anyway. He says that despite a previous pledge to abide by the process, Sukalski subsequently opted to run against Olson in the Aug. 11 primary election.

In announcing his decision, Sukalski stated: “I’ve decided [the 8th ballot roundup] is a technicality that our district’s 37,800 people should decide.”

Gunther said he believes it is important for the electorate at large to know that Republicans in District 23A already have spoken, by saying they want Olson.

“The next representative will need to be a fighter — especially considering the challenges facing the state and district due to the COVID-19 pandemic and projected state budget deficit,” Gunther said. “As a veteran myself, I’m impressed by the leadership of Bjorn Olson, and I know he will do a great job representing our district at the Capitol.”

Olson issued the following statement Tuesday: “It means a great deal to receive Representative Gunther’s endorsement. He has the trust of our district, and I am honored that he has placed his trust in me to succeed him.”

The winner of the primary contest between Olson and Sukalski will advance to the November election to face Democrat Pat Fahey Bacon, who faces no primary opponent.

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