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Kandiyohi County GOP begins task of 17B endorsement

WILLMAR — Kandiyohi County Republicans called for unity Saturday as they prepared to endorse their party’s candidate for the Minnesota House of Representatives in District 17B.

Republicans lost the House seat two years ago when legislative freshman Mary Sawatzky, a DFLer, was elected, unseating Republican incumbent Bruce Vogel.

Party leaders at the county convention Saturday said they aim to put a Republican back in House this fall.

For the first time in many years, delegates have two hopefuls seeking endorsement, Dave Baker and Linda Kacher.

“We haven’t had that for a long time,” said Rollie Nissen, Kandiyohi County Republican chairman.

The 106 delegates gathered at the MinnWest Technology Campus spent part of the morning hearing speeches and messages from party candidates seeking regional and statewide offices. They swiftly elected four delegates — Mitch Clark, Paul Hoffer, Tim Miller and Rollie Nissen — to the district GOP convention later this month in Willmar.

Then they got down to the task of choosing which of the candidates, Baker or Kacher, will receive the endorsement.

Baker, a Willmar business owner, emphasized his business experience and record of volunteer and professional service. He said he plans to be “razor-sharp focused” on campaigning and raising funds to take back the House 17B seat, one of a handful of legislative races that will be closely watched by Minnesota Republicans this fall.

“You have a choice today,” he told the delegates. “We have an overwhelming feeling that we have to win the seat back.”

He pledged to reach out to voters and campaign tirelessly. “I think I can cross the finish line before everybody,” he said.

Kacher has a background in both corporate and small business, as well as volunteer experience.

A self-described conservative, she said she will campaign on a platform of family, faith and values. “What’s at stake and the reason I’m here is our liberty,” she said.

Kandiyohi County Republicans put a conservative into the House four years ago with Vogel’s election and can do it again, Kacher told the crowd. “I’m standing here today to be that conservative.”

In order to gain the endorsement, one of the candidates must have the support of at least 60 percent of the delegates present at the convention. The process could take several hours.

Kacher has said she will abide by the endorsement process, and she reiterated that to the delegates on Saturday. “I trust that you’re going to select the right candidate here and I agree with that decision, whatever it may be,” he said.

Baker said Saturday that he hasn’t made up his mind yet. “I’m undecided right now,” he said.

If he fails to get the endorsement and continues with his run for office, voters would make the decision in the primary election.

Nissen urged the delegates Saturday to avoid becoming too divided over which candidate to endorse. “In order to win, we all have to be rowing the same way,” he said.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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