Olson, Sukalski vie for District 23A seat
FAIRMONT — Elmore Mayor Bjorn Olson and Fairmont engineer Michael Sukalski are making their final pitches to voters before the Aug. 11 primary.
The two Republicans are seeking the right to advance to the November election in pursuit of the District 23A seat held for more than two decades by fellow Republican Bob Gunther of Fairmont. Gunther is stepping down. The Republican Party has endorsed Olson in the race.
Olson and Sukalski both say they have been busy, discussing issues with voters across the district, which stretches from west of Jackson to east of Blue Earth and north toward St. James, but not including that city.
Olson says current events — the pandemic response and big city riots — top the list of voter concerns.
“The most common issue I’ve been hearing at the doors is about the overreach coming from Governor Walz and his administration,” Olson said. “Many people feel like our rural way of life is under attack. My biggest problem with the governor’s one-size-fits-all mandates is that they are issued without any buy-in from our state’s 201 legislators. The Legislature has not been a part of the decision-making process to debate the issues. One man should not be wielding unchecked power.”
He continued: “Over the last two months, we have seen rioters burning cities and tearing down statues of our Founding Fathers. As a seventh-grade history teacher at Blue Earth Area Middle School, I teach my students at the beginning of each year about the Founding Fathers and the importance of what they did to make America what it is today. You cannot judge people in history based off of morals and values we hold today. You cannot erase history by tearing down statues; you learn from history.”
Sukalski also made note of the state’s actions related to the pandemic, and pointed out other issues he has been talking about on the campaign trail.
“I have discussed Minnesota’s COVID-19 response and the governor’s over-assertion of emergency powers, and I have laid out what I would do if I were at the Capitol to curb this infringement,” he said. “I have discussed protecting our civil liberties, including protecting our Second Amendment rights by stopping any governmental infringements such as mandated gun registration and red flag laws, and I have asserted my belief in constitutional carry and Stand Your Ground laws. I have discussed protecting the rights of the unborn and protecting our most vulnerable population of those with special needs, and I have shined a light on our overtaxation and overregulation.”
Olson is serving his second term as Elmore mayor. He farms in the area, teaches at Blue Earth Area Schools and is a captain in command of an Army Reserve unit in Buffalo, Minnesota. He and his wife, Hannah, live with their two young children in Elmore.
Sukalski is a farmer and engineer. He was born in Fairmont and raised on a farm near East Chain, graduating from Granada-Huntley-East Chain School. He has lived in Fairmont for nearly six years, working for Harsco Rail. He previously worked for AGCO in Jackson. He farms in Martin and Faribault counties.
“I have over 20 years of experience volunteering and advocating for various causes, including agriculture, for those with disabilities, improvements to our education system, and for hunting and gun rights,” Sukalski said. “I have a unique perspective of the challenges faced by not just farmers and small business owners, but of individuals with disabilities and the challenges they face in education and employment through my continuous advocacy for my little sister Suzy who has Down syndrome.”
Olson touts his experience serving in government.
“As the mayor of Elmore, I have an intimate understanding of the difficulties that rural cities are dealing with here in southern Minnesota,” he said. “I became the mayor thinking I would quickly be able to clean up the town, but realized I had to change priorities to balancing the budget instead. I understand well the cost that is involved in the maintenance and replacement of necessary services such as roads, water, police, fire and first responder services.”
Both candidates say they are the right man for the job.
“The most significant difference between the two candidates in this race is experience,” Olson said. “We need someone who has experience in all areas that mean the most to the residents of this district and will be a force multiplier at the Capitol. As the Republican Party’s endorsed candidate, and as a farmer, a history teacher, a small town mayor, a captain in the Army Reserve, a husband and a father, I am uniquely qualified to represent our area and serve all of its needs.”
Sukalski counters: “We need a strong voice and advocate to fight for our district in St. Paul — someone who can communicate, listen, learn and generate new ideas. I believe I am the right candidate for the job, which I have shown through my drive, dedication to problem-solving and hard work, and ideas for change. It is my job as an engineer to evaluate a problem, study it from every angle, generate a solution and ultimately execute that solution — and this is exactly how I would tackle the issues in St. Paul.”
Democrat Patricia Fahey Bacon will ultimately take on the winner of the Olson-Sukalski contest. Bacon was the 2014 nominee of her party to challenge Gunther, losing to him by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent.
More information on the candidates is available at: