Bredeck touts knowledge of rural needs in campaign

MADISON -- Taking on an incumbent legislator in a rural district that runs along the South Dakota border from Lake Benton in Lincoln County to Beardsley in Big Stone County, and juts east all the way to Kerkhoven in Swift County, requires more th...

MADISON -- Taking on an incumbent legislator in a rural district that runs along the South Dakota border from Lake Benton in Lincoln County to Beardsley in Big Stone County, and juts east all the way to Kerkhoven in Swift County, requires more than lots of travel.

It takes someone who knows the terrain. Mike Bredeck calls it home and emphasizes his familiarity with the district and its rural needs in his campaign.

"I know people from Lake Benton to Graceville to Beardsley to Kerkhoven,'' said Bredeck.

People in these towns know him, too.

The Republican challenger in the District 20A contest is making his first bid for a state office with an advantage not always enjoyed by first-time candidates.


He has been a teacher in the Madison and Lac qui Parle Valley high schools for 35 years and is well-known as a high school wrestling coach throughout the region.

He has also been active in the American Legion's Boys State program, National Honor Society, and in creating a volunteer program for high school students. He is also a Catholic Aid Association insurance representative whose territory includes all of the district and much more.

Ask Bredeck, 57, what separates him from his DFL opponent Aaron Peterson, and Bredeck talks about his 35 years as an educator and resident of the district.

Supporters of Bredeck have challenged his DFL opponent for spending too much time out of the district. Peterson charges that he is a victim of a "whisper'' campaign that alleges he is not truly a resident.

Bredeck will only say: "Ask Aaron about his residence. He has a lot of explaining to do.''

The former wrestling coach may not be shy about picking a fight, but Bredeck promotes a different role for himself should he be elected. Describing himself as a "very moderate Republican'' who once also participated in the DFL Party, Bredeck said he wants to help end what he calls "gridlock" in St. Paul.

He argues that legislators need to put politics aside to resolve their differences. When they can't? "Put them in a room and see that the public wins,'' said Bredeck.

Bredeck said too much has been given to Minneapolis and St. Paul at the expense of rural areas.


"We need to work to get things back out here,'' he said. "It's time to give something back.''

What he would like to take back to the district from St. Paul more than anything else revolves around three campaign themes: jobs, education and health care.

Bredeck said District 20A needs "jobs, jobs, and jobs.'' The district is losing people, particularly young people. "They're leaving because there are no jobs available to them,'' he said.

Bredeck advocates a Job Opportunity Building Zones "plus'' program to attract industries to rural areas. JOBZ is a current state program that gives qualifying businesses certain tax breaks until 2015.

Bredeck said he is concerned about the future of public education in the state. He wants the state to do more to support rural schools. "We need to get more money to reduce class sizes,'' he said.

He doesn't call for increasing the state's overall spending on education, however.

He wants rural areas to receive the same per-pupil aid as do urban schools. He said Minneapolis receives $11,000 per student in state aid, while most rural schools see $8,000 per pupil.

He suggests that rural lawmakers could negotiate a better deal for rural schools. "You want your stadiums, we want our schools too,'' he said.


Bredeck said rising health care premiums hit rural residents hard. He calls for the state to provide "proper'' funding for nursing homes and health care needs.

The candidate is still defining his positions on some issues. "I don't like the word mandate,'' he said, but acknowledged that he supports Minnesota's ethanol requirement. He also looks favorably on the proposal to require the use of 20 percent renewable energy in the state by 2020. "We're all going to win on that,'' he said.

He is concerned about our transportation system. "It seems we have a lot of needs and not a whole lot of money,'' he said.

He calls the constitutional amendment to dedicate the motor vehicle sales tax to transportation a "step in the right direction,'' but withheld a full endorsement. He responds to questions about a possible gas tax increase in the same way. He pointed out that constituents could handle an increase with $1-a-gallon gasoline prices, but are "very nervous" about the prospect of a return to $3 gasoline.

He is still filling the tank of his car and campaigning across the sprawling district. Asked why he is running, Bredeck said he was inspired as a student by President John F. Kennedy's words: "Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country.''

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