Pope County commissioner, Starbuck farmer endorsed as GOP candidate for House 13A

BELGRADE -- Paul Anderson, a Starbuck farmer and Pope County commissioner, was endorsed Wednesday night in Belgrade as the Republican candidate for the House 13A seat.

BELGRADE -- Paul Anderson, a Starbuck farmer and Pope County commissioner, was endorsed Wednesday night in Belgrade as the Republican candidate for the House 13A seat.

He'll run against DFL'er Bruce Shuck, of rural Sunburg, in the general election in November.

The seat is open because of the retirement of Rep. Bud Heidgerken, a Republican from Freeport.

While praising all three candidates who sought the Republican endorsement, Heidgerken told the 28 delegates to select a candidate they thought could win the seat. The race is "ours to lose," he said.

Besides Anderson, John Nething, a farmer and truck driver from rural Belgrade, and Dr. Daron Gersch, a family practitioner from Albany, were vying for the endorsement.


After the first ballot, Anderson received 13 votes, Nething got seven votes and Gersch received eight.

Nething dropped out of the race, which put Anderson head-to-head with Gersch for a long session of balloting and questions from delegates that lasted until nearly 10 p.m.

It took a total of five ballots for Anderson to win the necessary 60 percent. With all three candidates standing firmly on the pro-life and pro-marriage platform, there was little difference between them when it came to issues.

Any distinction came as a result of their experiences in work and community activities.

Anderson, 57, is a full-time farmer, former school board member with the Minnewaska School District and a current Pope County commissioner. He's chairman of the local farm cooperative, a Farm Bureau member and said he supports ethanol production, wind energy and development of more oil refineries.

Those experiences made him well-versed in areas of school funding, state mandates that can make it difficult for local government to operate efficiently, agriculture and energy issues.

Anderson supports charter schools and home schooling, but his concerns that they were drawing funding away from public schools didn't necessarily set well with all the delegates.

Anderson said balancing the state budget would be his top priority as a legislator.


Gersch, 43, cited the rising costs of health care and the need to get more family practice doctors in rural communities as his priority issues. Minnesota is "facing a health care crisis," he said.

He readily admitted his knowledge of agriculture was limited, but he said he spent his youth baling hay and detasseling corn in southern Minnesota and was eager to learn more about ag policy.

With his campaign already registered with the state, money in the campaign account and literature and buttons designed, Gersch urged delegates to vote for him, in part, because his campaign was "ready to go."

Nething said people in St. Paul have forgotten what it takes for families to live on a budget. He said more control needs to be returned to local units of government, like schools, that struggle to live with state mandates.

After the final ballot to endorse Anderson, Gersch said he would abide by the endorsing process and not challenge Anderson in a primary.

Heidgerken, who frequently voted both sides of the political aisle and got in trouble with his party for voting to override Gov. Tim Pawlenty's transportation veto this spring, advised the candidates to "remember who you represent" and not just "do what a party tells you to do."

He said he won many votes from conservative Democrats in the district, which includes all of Pope County, western Stearns County and the northern seven townships in Kandiyohi County.

"Don't forget the folks back home who are paying the taxes," Heidgerken said.

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