By Mark Fischenich
Free Press Staff Writer
ST PETER — St. Peter Mayor Tim Strand will be the eighth candidate and fourth Democrat seeking to fill a vacant state House seat in a Feb. 12 special election.
Strand, who said he will file for the seat Thursday, hasn’t been active in the Democratic Party during his seven years as mayor of St. Peter and two as a councilman. And he said many acquaintances didn’t know his political affiliation.
“I was pretty good at hiding that from what I hear now,” he said. “I guess I never let on — mayor is a nonpartisan position.”
Strand said he’s fiscally conservative, but his beliefs on social issues make him a Democrat.
“I’m a very firm believer in an individual’s right to choice, and that would go toward pretty much anything,” he said.
Regardless of personal views about abortion and gay marriage, elected officials shouldn’t restrict the freedom of others to believe differently, he said.
Strand said his campaign will focus on his experience in local and regional government and his familiarity with the legislative process and its key players. He’s served as chairman of the Region Nine Development Commission, as a board member of the League of Minnesota Cities and as president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities.
With the latter organization, he conducted interviews with all of the candidates for governor in 2010 — meaning he’s quizzed not only Gov. Mark Dayton but also top leaders in the House and Senate from both parties who were unsuccessful gubernatorial candidates.
Eliminating the state’s recurring budget shortfalls should be the top priority for any lawmaker, Strand said. But he also said he would be pushing to restore Local Government Aid to ease property-tax burdens and help outstate cities maintain basic services.
“I’m a strong proponent of LGA, primarily from being out in rural Minnesota,” he said. “... I think the cities have taken the brunt of the cuts the last few years, and they’re not the biggest part of the budget.”
Strand is the first Democrat to enter the race since it became clear that the DFL had set its endorsing convention too late to avoid a primary election — even if all the contenders agree to abide by the endorsement. That’s because the filing deadline is Jan. 15 and the convention is set for Jan. 19. Typically, non-endorsed candidates would agree to not even file for the seat in deference to the choice of party activists at the endorsing convention.
Strand said he expects he would suspend his campaign if another Democrat is endorsed, even though his name would still be on the ballot for the primary election Jan. 29.
“To me, that would take the wind out of my sails right there,” he said of not winning the endorsement. “I’m probably not going to put a lot time, money and effort into the campaign if I don’t have that (party) support.”
Strand brings to eight the number of candidates seeking the seat, including Independence Party candidate Tim Gieseke; Republicans Joel Brinker, Jim Golgart and Allen Quist; and Democrats Karl Johnson, Clark Johnson and Robin Courrier.