The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Election 2008

October 29, 2008

Walz hasn't slowed down

MANKATO — In one respect, what residents of southern Minnesota saw in 2006 from candidate Tim Walz was exactly what they got from Congressman Tim Walz.

The Mankato West High School geography teacher, assistant football coach and Army National Guard command sergeant major was constantly on the go as a candidate. Voters rewarded his energy — and promises to change the way Washington operated — with an upset victory over six-term Congressman Gil Gutknecht, a Republican.

And during two years in the U.S. House, Walz barely slowed down.

After getting named to two major committees, the typical number for a member of the House, he lobbied for a third — ending up on panels dealing with agriculture, transportation and veterans affairs.

He held more than 170 public meetings in the 1st District, which stretches across the southern quarter of the state. He went to grocery stores on Saturday mornings to chat with residents, he scheduled regular conference calls with any media that wanted to quiz him on his votes and positions.

He scheduled forums across the district to get input from farmers as he worked on the new federal farm bill. He called dozens of experts and constituents in the region when he was mulling whether to support the $700 billion rescue plan for the financial services industry.

“That was very much a sense of responsibility — to add the openness and the accountability,” Walz said of his attempts to put himself in front of his constituents.

Slow going

Despite the activity, Walz struggled to make progress on a major promise of his 2006 campaign — a transformational shift in government if he and a majority of other Democrats were elected in the U.S. House and Senate.

“If they disagree with President Bush and they want to see a change in the priorities, they can vote for me and they’ll see a change,” he said in late October 2006.

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