Dist. 2 convention here: DFL will seek five more House seats in fall election

DFLers at the Senate Dist. 2 convention made quick work of endorsing incumbents Brita Sailer and Kent Eken Saturday in Park Rapids. Sailer, who is from Park Rapids, will seek a third term in the House; Eken of Twin Valley is going after his fourt...

DFLers at the Senate Dist. 2 convention made quick work of endorsing incumbents Brita Sailer and Kent Eken Saturday in Park Rapids.

Sailer, who is from Park Rapids, will seek a third term in the House; Eken of Twin Valley is going after his fourth.

Addressing the 36 delegates attending, state Sen. Rod Skoe, Clearbrook, said with only five more House members, both legislative bodies would have the majorities needed next year to override Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto pen.

Nominating Eken, Gabe Brisbois of Mahnomen compared what's happening in state government to "a long winter - dark, depressing, bearing down... Because of the governor's veto pen, the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off," Brisbois said.

"We need the light turned on for education, health care and the environment. Our infrastructure, our roads and bridges, are going to pot," he said. "The systems and programs DFLers put in place in the early 1970s to care for people need to be restored, so everyone has an opportunity.


"We used to be No. 1 in almost everything... we have to re-elect people to give us the legislation we need for our local governments.

"I nominate Kent Eken to pull that switch on that light at the end of the tunnel," Brisbois said.

Park Rapids mayor Nancy Carroll nominated Sailer. She said both their lives have changed since they met when their sons were playing baseball for Park Rapids.

Carroll said it was when they worked together on a waste management project for local schools, that she learned about Sailer's expertise about the environment.

Sailer was invited to speak at the National Conference of Environmental Legislators because of her work on the e-waste bill that passed in 2007, Carroll noted. Sailer's bill became the first legislation in the nation to address responsible disposal of computers, cell phones and the like.

In the past two elections, Carroll noted, Sailer "door knocked" the entire district. "She has that great determination because she cares and wants to hear firsthand what our concerns are. That means she really represents us at the Legislature," Carroll said.

Both legislators won unanimous endorsement, promising to return to St. Paul and work on budget cuts that would spare education and health care from cuts.

"I don't think it's all over yet," Sailer said. "I remain hopeful."


Skoe rallies delegates

Skoe opened the convention targeting the "myth" that Republicans are fiscally more responsible than Democrats.

The federal deficit in Washington is one of the greatest risks the nation faces, Skoe said. "The Democrats have brought pay-as-you-go back to Washington."

The state senator said 50 percent of the current federal deficit was created under the two Bush administrations and, if the deficit during Reagan's term is added, the percentage increases to about 70 percent.

'This is a risk we as citizens need to be very concerned about," Skoe said.

Skoe then turned his attention on the governor's line item veto of projects in the bonding bill, "worthless projects such as the central corridor," he said sarcastically.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) went around the state this week talking about millions of dollars in road projects, including rebuilding the bridge in St. Cloud.

"Where do they think the money is coming from?" he asked. "They wouldn't have the money to do all this if we hadn't overridden the governor's veto (of the gas tax for transportation).


"We need to invest in ourselves, our kids, health care reform, the environment, things that will do good things for our economy," Skoe said.

Ready to campaign

Sailer said she's looking forward to a campaign and even to door knocking. "It gives candidates a chance to hear what people really think and find out what the district really looks like," she said.

Unfortunately, she added, she expects to hear many of the same issues she's heard before because of roadblocks the governor puts in the way.

"There are so many things we would like to do. Every day seems like a week long."

Big Bog finally is funded in the bonding bill, "a testament to persistence," she said of the seven years it's taken for the project to be funded.

Sailer has chief authored 43 bills and co-authored 211 bills this session. Of those, she said, several relate to solar thermal energy. "I think entrepreneurs are going to do a fabulous job with this," she said.

'Getting the job done'

Eken also spoke about the need to elect enough DFLers this fall to be able to override the governor's vetoes.

He accused Pawlenty of being disengaged. "He wasn't in the state the day of the override," Eken said.

The transportation and bonding bill will create about 40,000 new jobs in the state, he said. "We've been getting the job done."

The House budget-balancing bill contains a 2 percent increase for nursing homes and 1 percent for schools despite the deficit, Eken said, adding the governor has proposed cuts for nursing homes and those with disabilities.

Finally, Eken said he sees the Interstate 35 bridge collapse as a metaphor. The state needs to build and maintain bridges across the generations as well, he said. "We have seen that deterioration (in funding for education and nursing home care).

"I'm tired of hearing from the something-for-nothing crowd," he said.

Other speakers

Sharon Josephson, district staff assistant in Collin Peterson's Detroit Lakes office brought greetings from the 7th District Congressman.

Congress faces another deadline April 18 to pass a Farm Bill they started working on more than two years ago, Josephson said. Conferees are negotiating the $4 billion gap between the $6.5 billion proposal from the House Agriculture Committee and the Senate's $10 billion "wish list."

The Farm Bill is about much more than ag production, Josephson said. "It's a safety net provided for American agriculture and consumers."

As Skoe mentioned earlier, Democrats are restricting spending to pay as you go. "They're not going to authorize money that's not already in the budget, so it means taking it from something else," Josephson said.

If no Farm Bill is authorized, "we go back to the 1949 bill," she added.

Roy Nelson from Ponemah urged support of Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer's bid for a run against US Sen. Norm Coleman. Nelson said Nelson-Pallmeyer worked on policy for Paul Wellstone and that affiliation alone gets his vote.

Speaking on behalf of Al Franken's campaign for DFL endorsement to run against Coleman, Mike Simpkins said Franken has out-raised Coleman the past four quarters and by $2 million last quarter.

Because of high gas prices, the campaign is sponsoring a delegate bus from the 7th Congressional District to the state convention in Rochester, he said.

Party business

The Senate Dist. 2 delegates re-elected Diane Ista from Ada as chair and Virgil Gunnarson from Lake Park as treasurer. New officers elected were Les Torgerson, Leonard, associate chair, and Pamela Hahn, Halstad, secretary.

Ista said some counties in the district are discussing combining county conventions in the future.

She also invited input on whether the state should continue the caucus system or go to primaries.

Counties in the district include all or part of Norman, Mahnomen, Clearwater, Beltrami, Becker, Hubbard, Polk and Pennington. Senate Dist. 2 also includes all of the White Earth Reservation and Red Lake Nation.

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