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Dave Baker wins GOP endorsement for House District 17B seat

Dave Baker gestures Saturday as the talks with an unidentified woman during the Kandiyohi County Republican Convention at the Minnwest Technology campus auditorium. The 106 delegates gathered and endorsed Baker to run against Democratic incumbent Mary Sawatzky in the House District 17B race. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR — Willmar businessman Dave Baker gained endorsement from Kandiyohi County Republicans this weekend for the Minnesota House of Representatives seat in District 17B.

Baker led in the first ballot and won the endorsement on the second ballot, capturing 63 percent of the delegates’ votes over the party’s other hopeful, Linda Kacher. A minimum of 60 percent was required to secure endorsement.

“Now we go into supporting Dave as our endorsed candidate,” said Rollie Nissen, chairman of the Kandiyohi County Republican Party. “It’s work from here on through November.”

Baker is seeking to win the House seat from the incumbent, DFL Rep. Mary Sawatzky.

It was the first time in many years that the county Republican Party had two candidates seeking endorsement at the county convention.

“We haven’t had that for a long time,” Nissen said.

The 106 delegates gathered at the MinnWest Technology Campus for the convention on Saturday spent part of the morning hearing speeches and messages from party candidates seeking regional and statewide offices. Then they got down to the task of choosing which of the candidates, Baker or Kacher, was to receive the endorsement.

Baker, a Willmar business owner making his first run for elected office, 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.

In a statement issued Sunday, Baker thanked Kandiyohi County Republicans for their support and said he’s “ready for the challenges ahead for the upcoming election.”

He has already raised between $3,000 and $4,000 and spent about $1,000 in campaign funds.

“I want to change the tone in St. Paul,” Baker said. “I want to use my experience building coalitions and teams to bring legislators together and achieve results and good policies for Minnesota families. I can’t sit on the sidelines any longer and watch as one-party control reduces balance for our friends and neighbors. It’s time for policies that will increase opportunity and allow all Minnesotans to share in the growth we’ve seen in Minnesota’s economy.”

A lifelong resident of Minnesota, Baker has lived in Willmar for the past 20 years. He and his wife, Mary, founded Baker Hospitalities Inc.

Kacher, who announced her candidacy in January, has both business and volunteer experience, including behind-the-scenes work for the Republican Party. Like Baker, it was her first try at elected office.

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

Party leaders called repeatedly Saturday for unity. Nissen urged the delegates to avoid becoming divided over the endorsement process. “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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