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Climate change, rural needs top issues for DFL delegates

Happening two days after wind storms, climate change proved to be a top of mind issue for a random sampling of those attending the DFL Congressional District 7 convention held Saturday in Willmar.

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Happening just two days after wind storms ripped across western Minnesota, climate change was a top-of-mind issue for many of those attending the DFL Congressional District 7 convention held on Saturday, May 14, 2022 in the Willmar High School.
Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR — Happening two days after wind storms ripped a path of destruction throughout much of western Minnesota, it should come as no surprise that a random sampling of delegates attending the DFL Congressional District 7 convention on Saturday in Willmar showed one issue to be top of mind.

“Climate change,” said Dave Norling of Melrose when asked what issues were important to him going into this year’s election. “When you think of the storms we had this week,” he added.

Convention organizers said they had heard from a number of would-be attendees who were unable to come to the event because they had to deal with damage to their properties from the wind storm.

That’s not to say those attending the convention were single-focused. Norling cited the growing inequities in wealth as a top-of-mind issue for him as well, and so did others.

Attendees arrived with a wide range of issues in mind. “I don’t know where to start,” said Alec Olson when asked what issues were on his mind going into the election.

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A Willmar native, Olson was elected to Congress 60 years ago this year, and remains active in the DFL. While he said there are many issues for the rural district, he had to admit that climate change has been on his mind as well. “I think Mother Nature is trying to get back at us,” he said.

Spencer Norling, a freshman at St. Cloud State University, attended the convention with his father, Dave Norling, and shared his concern about climate change. He said he’s also concerned about funding for special education. He said both parties have been unwilling to address the funding needs.

“Rural, rural Minnesota, just the whole thing in rural Minnesota,” said Karen Burdick of Ortonville. She said everything from rural child care and education needs to the need for farm programs that can help young people get into farming are very important to her.

“Young people cannot go back to the farm,” said Burdick. She said that even when parents own their farms, the economics make it extremely difficult and oftentimes impossible for them to help the young generation take over.

But like so many others, Burdick said she can’t help but be concerned about climate change as well. She said she and her husband operate a beef cattle ranch and are concerned about how the weather extremes are impacting them. The weather in recent years is like no other weather they’ve experienced through their years on the ranch, she said.

“Even our Republican friends are admitting climate change is an issue,” said Burdick. She described the changing climate as a “crisis in the making.”

Richard Kagen of Dent in Otter Tail County is versed on many of the issues facing the rural district as an author of opinion pieces. Gas prices and inflation are among the issues he noted many are discussing. He cited the need for renewable energy and policies to promote them due to climate change.

At the convention, the delegates adopted a party plank that listed a wide range of issues as priorities for the DFL in the district, from health care to education and social justice.

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The delegates endorsed Jill Abahsain of Sauk Centre to oppose Republican Michelle Fischbach in the Congressional District 7 election. In a video to the delegates in Willmar, Abahsain cited her concerns about health care and education and the rural needs that were also voiced by the attendees. “The preservation and advancement of small town life, rural communities and family farms,” she said, were a priority for her.

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Alec Olson, left, who was elected to Congress 60 years ago this year, and Dean Norduane of Wood Lake, visit at the DFL Congressional District 7 Convention held Saturday, May 14, 2022 in Willmar. Olson and Norduane both said there are a wide range of issues going into the election and for both of them, the election of a candidate to win back the seat that Collin Peterson held for 30 years was their priority.
Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoors reporter for the West Central Tribune.
He has been a reporter with the West Central Tribune since 1993.

Cherveny can be reached via email at tcherveny@wctrib.com or by phone at 320-214-4335.
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