By Mark Fischenich
The Free Press
Two months after voters in Nicollet County and parts of Mankato saw just a single candidate on their ballot for the state House of Representatives, it appears they'll have multiple choices in an upcoming special election.
A second Democrat and two Independence Party candidates are looking at joining the race to replace Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter, who announced two weeks ago that he was resigning from the Legislature to take a job in Chicago.
Rural North Mankato pork producer Karl Johnson is planning to jump into the race this week.
The New Ulm Journal reported that Johnson, a Democrat, would enter the race Wednesday, making him the second DFLer looking to succeed Morrow and keep the seat in Democratic hands for 10 straight years.
Robin Courrier, a longtime teacher and teacher's union leader from North Mankato, was the first candidate to announce and so far is the only one to definitely commit to a run. Courrier, who has 28 years of experience in education, is currently the lead teacher at Bridges Community School. With no principal at the West Mankato elementary school, Courrier performs both administrative and teaching duties.
Johnson operates a farrow-to-finish hog operation with his brother Paul. A member of the National Pork Producers Council Hall of Fame, Johnson has served as president of that organization and the Minnesota Pork Producers Association.
There could be more Democrats entering the race.
"We've talked with several people who are interested," said Karen Foreman, chairwoman of the Senate District 19 Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.
Morrow's seat, House District 19A, is made up of Nicollet County plus a portion of Mankato's western and northern sides.
Foreman hopes that the DFL will settle on a candidate as quickly as possible after Gov. Mark Dayton declares a vacancy and sets a date for a special election. A total of 104 delegates elected at county convention last spring will be called to a convention to endorse a candidate, with party activists hoping that losing candidates will withdraw and rally around the endorsee.
"Our preference will be the earliest Saturday after the governor announces," Foreman said, the only caveat being that 10 days notice must be given delegates.
Two Independence Party candidates announced they are strongly considering a run for the seat. Jeff Thom of North Mankato, the founder and CEO of All American Foods, and Tim Gieseke of rural Nicollet, the owner of Ag Resource Strategies, said they are considering runs.
"I have been asked by several people to consider running," wrote Thom in his Sunday announcement, "and since we desperately need independent representatives that can come together -- unlike this state's traditional parties have been able to do -- I feel a potential run deserves my serious consideration and I expect to make my decision in the near future."
Gieseke touted experience in agriculture, local government, non-profit organizations and business.
"My political philosophy is based on 'a bit less government of the state and a bit more governance by the practitioners' -- those people in the trades that keep the economy running," Gieseke wrote.
No Republicans have announced for the seat, although retired St. Peter farmer Allen Quist has said he is considering a run. A state representative in the 1980s, Quist won the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Congressman Tim Walz in last year's election but lost to Walz by 15 percentage points.
Morrow had no opposition on Nov. 6 from either the Republican or Independence parties.