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Kowalski steps forward with bid to challenge Schoen for House seat

Matt Kowalski, of Cottage Grove, announces his intention to challenge District 54A state Rep. Dan Schoen in the fall election. Kowalski made an unsuccessful run for Cottage Grove City Council in 2012. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler)

Less is more, said GOP activists at the Senate District 54 precinct caucus.

At Cottage Grove Middle School, more than 100 attendees heard leaders and candidates reiterate the need for smaller, less intrusive government and fewer taxes.

They cited a $17 trillion federal debt, continuing problems with the federal Affordable Care Act, citizen surveillance by the National Security Agency and the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS.

“I’m pushing for our narrative to be that, if it involves increasing the size, scope and cost of government, we will question it, sometimes, vehemently,” said Chad Rediske, a Cottage Grove resident and District 54 GOP chairman.

Matt Kowalski, 31, of Cottage Grove, told caucus-goers he would seek the Republican nomination to run against state Rep. Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, in the District 54A House race this fall. 

“Basically, every bill he comes up with in the House is geared toward more government control,” Kowalski said.

He cited Schoen’s recent call for a “fair fuel prices” bill that would ban gas stations near a refinery from charging more than the area average, as well as his proposal to tax every insured driver in Minnesota an extra $10 annually to provide more funds for trauma centers and local EMS providers. Kowalski promised GOP activists he would not raise their taxes.

Kowalski made an unsuccessful run for Cottage Grove City Council in 2012. He was the only candidate who addressed the caucus in person. Nearly half a dozen others submitted letters stating their intention to run for governor or Congress.

Attendees also heard a challenge to U.S. Rep. John Kline from within his own party.

Caucus attendee Matt Erickson asked the group to support David Gerson of South St. Paul in his bid to unseat Kline. Gerson lost to Kline in the 2012 Republican primary.

Erickson said that Kline’s votes in favor of government bailouts and raising the debt ceiling made him part of the big government that true conservatives oppose.

Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, met with each precinct caucus. McNamara, who  is running for re-election, emphasized the need to break the Democratic monopoly in St. Paul.

“We need to get a Republican majority back in the Minnesota House,” McNamara said. “It’s important that we have a two-party government.”

The Feb. 4 caucus was the first step in choosing candidates to run against Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and U.S. Sen. Al Franken. The local winners of a GOP straw poll were state Sen. Dave Thompson of Lakeville for the governor’s race and state Sen. Julianne Ortman of Chanhassen for the U.S. Senate seat. (Ortman also won the statewide Senate straw poll; former state lawmaker and gubernatorial candidate Marty Seifert was favored statewide in the governor’s race straw poll.)

Rediske said the GOP has a good chance to capitalize on frustration with the continuing problems with the Affordable Care Act and MNsure. 

“I believe (it) makes it a good year for Republicans in general,” he said.

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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