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Retired MACCRAY teacher seeks GOP nod for District 17A

CLARA CITY –– Gary Nelson, a retired teacher and high school coach from Clara City, announced Monday he is seeking the Republican endorsement for the District 17A House seat.

Nelson is the second GOP candidate to announce his candidacy for the office, which is currently held by DFL Rep. Andrew Falk, of Murdock.

“I’m running for the Minnesota House to be a voice for the communities here in west central Minnesota,” said Nelson in a written statement.

“I want to go with the best idea to solve problems. I will give my best effort to represent District 17A as well as the people of Minnesota no matter what their political affiliation is.”

Last month, Tim Miller said he would once again seek the GOP endorsement for another run for the office. Miller, of Prinsburg, lost to Falk in 2012 in the House race.

In an interview, Nelson said he was recruited in October to run for the seat and decided in December to seek the endorsement. Nelson said his decision was made before he was aware Miller intended to make another run for the office.

“I have the passion and the time to do this,” said Nelson. “For me, it’s the right time in my life.”

When asked if he would abide by the endorsement process, Nelson was reluctant to give a definite answer at this time.

He said he’d delay that decision until he had time to gauge the response of delegates at the county GOP endorsing conventions in District 17A, which will be held in early March in Chippewa, Kandiyohi, Renville and Swift counties.

Nelson said he would not rule out a run in a primary election against Miller if the votes were close at the county endorsing conventions.

Miller, however, said Monday that he would honor the endorsement process. He said he’d need the support of district activists to help campaign in the general election. “I do not see how I can ask them to give me this support if I do not honor their wishes,” said Miller.

Nelson said he and Miller likely share the same ideas and concerns and both would “fight hard” for the Republican Party and the district.

Nelson was critical of Falk’s votes that he said increased taxes on farmers and businesses.

“These taxes mean higher costs for everyone, and it’s just not right,” said Nelson. “I want to go to St. Paul to help our community. It’s time for common sense leadership. Everyone should be able to keep more of what they earn.”

Nelson, who has a long history of volunteering as a fire fighter, EMT and with his church, said running for political office in an “opportunity to help people.”

Nelson is a longtime resident of Clara City and taught math, physical education and driver’s education for more than two decades at MACCRAY high school and one decade at Raymond High School.

His 33-year coaching career included football, golf and basketball. He was voted Minnesota State High School League Class A Coach of the Year in 2009-2010, was three-time Coach of the Year for Section 3, and was named Conference Coach of the Year 13 times.

Because he has traveled extensively in District 17A with his past coaching job, Nelson said he knows many people in the district.

District 17A includes Chippewa and Swift counties, most of Renville County, and the four southwestern townships of Kandiyohi County.

Nelson and his wife, Deb, live in Clara City where he works as a bus driver. He has two adult sons and a daughter-in-law.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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