District 13 Senate race rerun: Joe Gimse

WILLMAR -- Wearing jeans and sitting in the Willmar office building where he and his brother base their land development and home building business, Joe Gimse is relaxed and quick with a smile as he talks about the Nov. 7 election.

WILLMAR -- Wearing jeans and sitting in the Willmar office building where he and his brother base their land development and home building business, Joe Gimse is relaxed and quick with a smile as he talks about the Nov. 7 election.

For the second time in four years, Gimse, a 49-year-old Republican, is taking on Dean Johnson for the District 13 Senate seat.

In 2002 Gimse lost to Johnson by 2,510 votes, with Johnson receiving 53 percent of the votes to Gimse's 46 percent.

Gimse said he's quite confident he'll make up the gap in votes this year and win the election.

The campaign is going well, he said, with growing support from constituents. Last year he'd get a few calls a week from people requesting campaign lawn signs. This year, he said, there are calls every day. "It's almost to the point where we can't keep up," he said. "I'm excited about this campaign."


When asked how he differs from his opponent, Gimse said it would be "so easy to conjure up negative things and I'm not geared that way."

While not directly criticizing what Johnson has done in the Senate and as Senate majority leader, Gimse said he would make every effort not to participate in partisan politics and "gridlock maneuvering purely for political purposes."

Gimse calls himself a "traditionalist" and says he holds the Republican Party values of his parents and grandparents.

What he values most in his personal life are his family -- he and his wife, Lanae, have four children and three grandchildren, his faith; which he said is the "foundation of everything a person does;" and being a "productive part of my community."

Gimse's priority issues, which are listed in the order he provided during an interview, are highway infrastructure and economic development, education, health care, aid to local governments and tax relief for businesses.

Of the seven organizations that have endorsed Gimse, four of them -- Minnesota Citizens in Defense of Marriage, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, Minnesotans for Life and Neighbors for Life -- have strong positions on abortion and gay marriage.

Yet when asked to list his top five issues, abortion and same-sex marriage were not on the list.

When asked which three bills he'd like to see passed if elected, he did not mention legislation to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to ban same-sex marriage.


Gimse has been critical of Senate Majority Leader Johnson for not advancing legislation in the Senate that would have allowed Minnesotans to vote on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. The measure failed in a Senate committee in April.

"They simply wanted an opportunity to vote on it," said Gimse, when asked specifically about the amendment to define marriage.

Regarding legislation he said he would author and work to pass, Gimse said he'd like to see a study to analyze public health care funding in Minnesota; increase transportation funding to develop U.S. Highway 12 into a four-lane; and legislation that would allow local service groups, like the American Legion, to keep more charitable gambling proceeds to fund local projects, such as services for veterans, instead of sending money to the state.

What follows is a snapshot view of Gimse's top priorities.

n Roads/economic development: Gimse said there's no reason why U.S. Highway 12 can't be turned into a four-lane from Willmar to the Twin Cities and he'd make that his "top priority" if elected. He'd also like to see U.S. Highway 71 turned into a four-lane and the state Highway 23 four-lane project completed.

Willmar is lagging behind other regional centers because it lacks a four-lane highway, he said, and economic development will increase here if there's a "crossroads" of four-lane highways.

He said funding for the highway improvements could come from the state's expected $500 million budget surplus and new revenue from a gas tax increase. He said "under the right circumstances" he'd support a 5-cent gas tax increase. He also supports the constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot in November to dedicate 100 percent of the motor vehicle sales tax for transportation and would work with the Minnesota congressional delegation to secure federal funding.

n Education: Equitable funding for schools to "meet the needs of our children" is necessary, said Gimse, who despairs that some schools receive more state funding than others. His wife is a teacher in the Willmar School District and he said he sees the need for fairer funding.


Education funding should be reformed and made more transparent, he said. Any funding increases for education could come from the state's expected budget surplus, he said.

n Health care: "We have a crisis looming in health care," said Gimse, who wants to dedicate $10 million to conduct a study of all the state's public health care programs and consider implementing a public/private partnership to create health savings accounts for vulnerable residents who don't have their own health insurance. He said Massachusetts has a similar plan, which requires participants to pay a premium based on their salary.

He said the state's budget surplus could be used to study and implement the program.

n Local Government Aid: During an interview, Gimse said cuts in state aid to local units of government have resulted in property tax increases, and he'd like to see some of those cuts restored to relieve local property tax pressure. Again, he said that the state's budget surplus could be used to offset the costs.

In a debate Tuesday, however, Gimse said the LGA cuts were part of the necessary "pain" the state experienced when solving the $4.5 billion deficit. "We need to watch state spending," he said.

n Business taxes: As a business owner, Gimse said he's seen businesses "bear the brunt" of property tax increases. He said small businesses should be given some incentive to build and expand without paying higher taxes.

Gimse's campaign Web site is: .

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at or 320-894-9750
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