The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Election 2008

October 29, 2008

Challenge in District 24A

Democrat goes head to head with 7-time incumbent

Dale Hansen, running for a state House seat that includes St. James and Fairmont, is a first-time candidate for public office of any kind.

Hansen is a Democrat in a district that’s tended to vote Republican for everything from president to legislative seats.

And Hansen is running against Rep. Bob Gunther, a seven-term incumbent whose closest election was a 61 percent to 36 percent nailbiter in 2004.

Hansen holds out hope for a victory based on what he’s hearing when knocking on doors in the district, which also includes Blue Earth, Winnebago, Truman and Lewisville. People tell him they’ll give him a fair look.

“They don’t vote party, they vote for the

person,” said Hansen, an attorney. “I think if my message resonates with the voters, they will vote for me even though I am a Democrat.”

Popular incumbent

Gunther’s personality and his message have been popular with voters since 1995. In a special election that year, he grabbed just under 70 percent of the vote. No Democrat bothered to run against him for three elections after that, and his share of the vote in contested elections since then has ranged from 61 percent to 70.

“I’m a good listener,” Gunther said. “I have experience, get along with both sides of the aisle.”

That willingness to work with Democrats in St. Paul may be necessary again in 2009 and 2010 if he wins an eighth term because the DFL has a large majority in the House, and Gunther guesses they’ll hold that majority.

The DFL takeover didn’t stop him from getting things done, which demonstrates his knack for not letting partisan politics get in the way of legislative success, he said.

“I have ties with people on the other side of the aisle,” Gunther said. “I passed 29 bills in the last biennium where I was the author.”

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