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Chip Cravaack, who is seeking Republican endorsement for the Dist. 8 U.S. House of Representatives, told the Hubbard County contingent he has "no aspirations to be a politician. I want to be a statesman." (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Hubbard County Republicans gather for convention

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An enthusiastic group of Republicans gathered Saturday in Park Rapids with a recurring theme heard from candidates and delegates alike: Take back the state and country and restore the public's trust.

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"Republicans are re-energized and re-involved," state outreach coordinator Victor Gomez said. "The pendulum is swinging back in our favor. What a difference a year makes... November holds great promise, here and across the country."

Seventy-four arrived for the event, representing townships and cities in the county. Eight-year-old Eric Ihrke of Hart Lake Township assumed the role of page, a position that's been "vacant" for several years.

Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, fielded questions and provided updates on issues in the Legislature.

"It's a slow process," he said of the legislative procedure. "But we're getting the right things done; not just getting things done."

Candidates vying for the District 8 congressional seat, Justin Eichorn of Grand Rapids, Rob Farnsworth of Hibbing, Chip Cravaack of North Branch and Darrel Trulson of Chisago City, stepped up to the mic to seek endorsement.

Eichorn, a small business owner, pointed out grassroots enterprises are "the lifeblood of our economy," and vowed to represent small business owners' interests, as well as explore energy resources, including nuclear power.

Farnsworth, a special education teacher, noted his son was born with a $33,000 debt, his share of the national deficit. "Problems aren't being dealt with," he said of Social Security and Medicare, which are "poised to bankrupt the country."

Retired veterinarian and Air Force Col. Chuck Fuller introduced - and endorsed - retired Naval Captain Cravaack, who after 28 years' experience in the military, serving as a senior staff officer for NATO and a Northwest Airlines pilot, is now a stay-at-home dad and president of the PTO (parent-teacher organization).

"I have no aspirations to be a politician," he told party members. "I want to be a statesman. We need to take the country back."

"He is the optimal candidate to retire Oberstar," Fuller said of Cong. James Oberstar, who has been re-elected for 16 terms.

Trulson pointed out the country is running the risk of bankruptcy. The "fiscally and socially conservative" candidate advocated lowering the business tax to "get people back to work" and reducing the power of the federal government.

Dennis Moser, who's running for the Senate seat in District 2, advocated cutting excessive taxes "to become competitive with neighboring states" and getting children involved in government, his grandson accompanying him.

"By the way," he said in closing, "I'm a Vietnam vet and I drive a pickup," drawing chuckles.

Gomez said that in meeting with independents in focus groups, he learned the participants "will vote Republican if we stick to core values - free enterprise, fiscal responsibility, personal responsibility and limited, sensible government."

Hubbard County resident Dick Bogaard shared a letter from Marty Siefert, who appears to have strong backing from the Hubbard County contingent of delegates.

"I grew up on a farm in rural Minnesota," Siefert stated. "My father taught us simple lessons. Don't spend more than you have. If you borrow money, it must be paid back. And parents, not government, raise children.

"Our state and nation are at a crossroads," he wrote. "Government intrusion in our lives has reached an unprecedented level. Republicans must remember the principals we stand for - the power of the free market, limited government and individual responsibility.

"Government needs to be downsized, right-sized and economized," Seifert said.

Letters were read from several other candidates seeking endorsement for state office.

"Minnesota cannot continue to use your property as an ATM machine," District 4 senatorial candidate John Carlson wrote.

Resolutions garnering support included a freeze on homestead property taxes at age 65. Henri Verbrugghen stated since turning 65, his property taxes have increased by over 400 percent.

"A large percentage of the voters are elderly and retired," he said.

A resolution banning saline abortions won approval as did a call for repealing the 2008 patient "Encounter Data" law. The contingent expressed opposition to "government takeover of health care."

A resolution guaranteeing parents' rights regarding decisions in children's upbringing met approval.

The delegates - in the wake of the Norm Coleman and Al Franken recount - asked that a runoff election, as opposed to a recount, be held in contested elections of 2 percent or less.

The group agreed the state should not mandate alternative fuel standards and that a free market should develop energy technologies.

Social Security was added to the list of prohibited benefits for illegal aliens.

A proposal to reduce public lands by at least 40 million acres met opposition, however. The resolution was a means to "reduce millions of taxpayer dollars used to hire personnel and equipment used for maintaining government land."

Delegates elected to attend the district and state conventions include John and Patti Schrader, Paul and Nancy Utke, Candace Ihrke, Nancy and Dick Bogaard, Bill Smith, Al Kleinke and Heather Shearen.

The District 8 Republican convention will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 10 in Cambridge. The state Republican convention will be held Thursday through Saturday, April 29-May 1 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

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