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Willmar legislator Juhnke announces his bid to seek an eighth term in the state House of Representatives

WILLMAR -- Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, announced Thursday he'll seek an eighth term in the House of Representatives.

Juhnke represents District 13B, which includes most of Kandiyohi County.

He is being challenged by Bruce Vogel, a Republican from Willmar.

Juhnke said he believes the "shift to the right" of Minnesota's Republican Party will have positive results for state Democrats at the election polls in November.

"You can't just come in with anger and stomping your feet on the ground when running for office," Juhnke said. "I'm very proud of my record. I'll put it up against anyone."

Besides efforts to bring "thoughtful ideas" and beneficial legislation to the state, Juhnke said his seniority has placed him on committees that are important to "our neck of the woods." He serves as chairman of the House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Finance Division,

Agriculture makes up 40 percent of the local economy, he said, and has assisted the development of the biofuels and ethanol industries and he authored the bill requiring B-20 blends in all vehicles by 2015.

With numerous veterans in the district, and with his own son returning from a tour of duty in Iraq, Juhnke said he has worked to promote legislation to help veterans. He expressed deep frustration this week when funding for a veterans geriatric mental illness facility that had been proposed for Willmar was eliminated from the bonding bill.

Saying it was "petty politics," Juhnke put equal blame on Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Senate DFL Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller for removing the Willmar veterans project from the bonding bill and replacing it with a new veterans home in Minneapolis.

He said this in the second year in a row that Pawlenty's request for a new veterans facility in the metro area was approved and Willmar's proposal was eliminated.

"As a result of this switch, we will lose 100 state employees and hundreds of construction jobs from west central Minnesota," he said.

Juhnke said he was disappointed that six years of planning by local leaders to get the home built here "hit the cutting room floor."

Juhnke said he doesn't intend to give up on projects to help veterans and this latest setback only fuels the "fire in the belly" to keep the project alive.

"These are the kind of things I'm down here for," he said.

Juhnke said he is pleased that $14 million for construction projects at Ridgewater and $2 million for a recreation trail from New London to Sibley State Park are still in the bonding bill.

"We're waiting for the governor and his bonding bill and see what survives," he said.

Besides his chairmanship, Juhnke also serves on the Capital Investment Finance Division, Environment Policy and Oversight, Finance, Rules and Legislative Administration and Telecommunications Regulation and Infrastructure Division.

"I would be proud to once again be given the opportunity to use my experience to work on the significant challenges we face in the years ahead," said Juhnke.

The endorsing convention for District 13B will be at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the BBE high school in Belgrade.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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