Senate District 54 profile: Republican Janis QuinlanJanis Quinlan said she was a political junkie but never thought she was on a path toward running for office. Then a map changed her direction.
By: Scott Wente, South Washington County Bulletin
Janis Quinlan said she was a political junkie but never thought she was on a path toward running for office.
Then a map changed her direction.
Two years ago Quinlan campaigned for Republican Karin Housley, who ran against Sen. Katie Sieben. Quinlan and Housley were friends through their work as realtors. Housley lost the race but planned another run against Sieben this fall, and Quinlan was ready to help.
A redistricting map released earlier this year put Housley’s home in a different legislative district, preventing another match-up with Sieben.
So Housley texted Quinlan and urged her to run against Sieben in the new District 54.
“I texted back and said, ‘We need to talk,” Quinlan recalled. They talked, and Quinlan thought it over and weighed the commitment before jumping into the race.
“I’m doing this because I believe we need to do things differently at government levels,” she said.
Quinlan said the key to her first campaign has been “getting personal with the voters.”
“That’s the No. 1 success I have,” she said of talking one-on-one with local residents, adding that they can relate to her. “Before this political run, I am just like them. I’m just an average person.”
A native of St. Paul’s east side, Quinlan moved to St. Paul Park about two years ago and is engaged to be married. She is a realtor with Coldwell Banker, and coached swimming at St. Paul’s Johnson High School for 25 years.
As she campaigns, Quinlan said she’s heard a consistent message that “the economy is awful.”
She said her priority if elected would be to work on growing jobs, particularly in the Senate district. She proposed to do that through “grassroots searching and advertising” to promote the south Washington County area to potential businesses.
“If you make it attractive to be in your district, that’s the direction they’ll go,” she said.
Quinlan also said tax changes could help lure more businesses to the area. She proposes incentives such as either lower taxes or tax credits.
Easing state regulations also could help the business climate, she said. Quinlan said she has not had time to explore which regulations are impediments to business growth and which regulations were eased by the Legislature in recent years.
“You’ve got to use common sense,” she said. “Certain regulations are needed.”
Quinlan said her approach to a state budget deficit would be to reduce spending.
“We have to look at the programs that aren’t working,” she said, but did not provide examples.
Quinlan did not rule out raising taxes, but said it would be a “last resort.”
“The last thing I’d want to do is raise taxes,” she said. “The No. 1 thing I’d want to do is work on spending cuts.”
She strongly opposes raising income taxes on the state’s wealthiest earners — a key plan of DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and one that Sieben generally supports — because Quinlan said those high-income Minnesotans already provide more revenue to the state than other earners. Also, she said, it’s unclear to people who support an income tax hike on high earners that small business owners often file as an individual and would be affected.
“You’re beating up on small businesses,” she said.
Quinlan said she is willing to look at whether some tax “loopholes” benefitting corporations should be closed.
“Corporations are different; they’re not small business,” she said.
One of Quinlan’s main messages is that government has overreached and is too involved in people’s lives: “Our government has been trampling on our liberties.”
She said she talked recently with members of an area motorcycle club and agreed with them that the state should not require that motorcyclists wear helmets. That is not an existing law, but Quinlan said she would oppose it if it was proposed.
Quinlan did not provide any examples of current laws that she believes overreach, but said that is part of the challenge of being a first-time candidate who also is running her own business.
“I haven’t been there,” she said of working in the Legislature. “I haven’t looked to see what the laws are … (My) research is going to be coming in the next couple of months.”
Quinlan supports the proposed constitutional amendment requiring that voters provide photo identification, saying she doesn’t buy opponents’ claims that it will cost tens of millions of dollars to implement if voters approve the ballot measure Nov. 6. She also said photo identification is required for many daily transactions, even welfare.
“I just don’t buy the disenfranchise excuse,” she said of amendment opponents concerns the measure could prevent some people from being able to vote.
Quinlan said she believes the proposed amendment that would ban same-sex marriage was an example of government meddling in an area it does not belong.
“I just don’t think government should have been involved,” she said.
However, Quinlan would not say how she plans to vote on the amendment Nov. 6. She said it’s not a “cop out” to keep that position from voters.
“That’s my own business,” she said.