The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

January 2, 2013

Update: N. Mankato farmer announces candidacy for House seat

Independence Party member Jeff Thom decides not to run

NORTH MANKATO — A second North Mankato Democrat has officially entered the race for a soon-to-be-vacant state House seat, but both candidates have pledged to abide by the preference of party activists and not take the contest to a primary election.

Democrat Karl Johnson, saying his top priorities would be property tax relief and completion of the Highway 14 expansion, announced his candidacy Wednesday in the state House 19A special election.

Also on Wednesday, a potential Independence Party candidate from North Mankato said he has decided not to run and Republican Allen Quist said he would reveal by the end of the week whether he will seek the seat being vacated by Rep. Terry Morrow, who is resigning next week to take a job in Chicago.

A rural North Mankato resident, Johnson joined North Mankato teacher Robin Courrier in the race to replace Morrow, DFL-St. Peter. Long active in the local DFL, Johnson said he’s often thought about running for the Legislature and — 10 days after his 68th birthday — took the plunge.

“The timing seems right, right now,” said Johnson, a lifelong Nicollet County resident who has been farming since 1967 and has held top positions with the Minnesota Pork Producers Association.

His work on sometimes contentious policy issues with the pork association demonstrated an ability to bring opposing sides together, Johnson said, and that’s a skill needed in government these days.

“It’s been a terrible mess,” he said of the partisanship of recent years.

Johnson would like to add a farmer’s voice to the Legislature, which has seen the number of active farmers dwindle to under 10. But he said he would go to St. Paul less as a farmer than as a Minnesotan, looking to restore the state’s former luster by protecting the state’s education system and environment while reducing the growing dependence on property taxes.

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