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Tribune Editorial: Our choices for House 17B and 17A seats

The Minnesota House.

For once, it has been a rather quiet election season in the region, with neither District 17 House race drawing much attention from outside political action committees.

While the candidates have some differences on policy, they all have been relatively cordial and respectful of each other. It has been frankly a refreshing campaign among a politically hateful campaign elsewhere this year.

House 17B

The House 17B race this year pits incumbent Dave Baker, R-Willmar, versus political newcomer Anita Flowe, DFL-Willmar. Baker is a restaurant business owner and Flowe is a mechanical engineer.

District 17B includes Willmar and the northern two-thirds of Kandiyohi County.

Baker has served two terms in the Minnesota House. His legislative experience combined with his public service talents are valuable. He should be re-elected for a third term.

His life experience and business background create a robust personal platform which serves the needs of the district well. Most importantly, he understands and studies the needs of his constituents and the district.

Baker’s leadership has played a role in his public service in Willmar and Kandiyohi County. He served on the Willmar Municipal Utilities board, helping him understand energy issues. He played a role in the Willmar School’s iPad project and the Destination Playground, both successful public-private partnerships in the community.

He has worked on transportation issues in the Legislature and helped solve the funding issue to fill the gaps on state Highway 23. He continues to focus on finding workable solutions to address the opioid crisis.

Baker’s priorities include seeking solutions to the costs of health care, being a voice for small business and seeking workable solutions to address eudcation, transportation, broadband and infrastructure needs in rural Minnesota.

The West Central Tribune Editorial Board recommends House 17B voters re-elect Baker for a third term.

House 17A

The House 17A race features two candidates with legislative experience - incumbent Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, and Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City. Miller is a business owner, while Koenen is a retired farmer and current truck driver.

Miller has served two terms and is seeking re-election for a third. Koenen is seeking a return to the House, after losing his Senate re-election race in 2016. He previously served four terms in the House before winning a special election to replace the late Sen. Gary Kubly.

District 17B includes all of Swift and Chippewa counties and most of Renville County and four townships in southern Kandiyohi County.

The two candidates differ on some issues but have pretty much run civil campaigns. This year's race is far different from the two previous campaigns when Miller and his opponent Andrew Falk were extremely argumentative and combative with each other.

Miller spent much of 2017 seeking the Republican nomination for Congress in the 7th District. After gaining little traction, he dropped out and ran for re-election to the Legislature.

As a legislator, he has been a strong advocate for the veterans home project in Montevideo and for reopening the Appleton prison facility to help solve overcrowding. He is a conservative, who can become too focused on social issues on occasion.

Koenen is seeking election to the House for the fifth time and says he can work with both sides. He was a strong advocate for farmers in his previous terms, often focusing on tax, agriculture and rural issues. He was known for his bipartisan work and quiet leadership in both the House and Senate. He has been supportive of a reopening of the Appleton prison. On occasion, he can be too passive.

Both candidates are seeking solutions to high health care costs, especially for farmers and owners of  small businesses. Both want to see a review of overburdensome regulations in child care, agriculture and small business.

This race has two candidates with significant legislative experience to be considered. Both have represented their district adequately in the past. Either candidate would be a suitable choice for the district. The final choice will be up to District 17A voters.