The Free Press, Mankato, MN

June 17, 2013

Rochester lawmaker to challenge Walz in Minn. 1st

The Associated Press
Associated Press

---- — ROCHESTER — A two-term Republican state legislator announced Monday he would try to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz in the 2014 election.

Rep. Mike Benson told The Journal of New Ulm that he would seek his party's nomination in the 1st Congressional District. Walz has represented the southern Minnesota district after toppling an incumbent to get to Washington in 2006.

Benson's home base of Rochester gives him a footing in the district's most populous city. The former postmaster first won his state House seat in 2010.

While he has embraced conservative positions on social issues, Benson has strayed some from his party on taxes. He once pushed to boost the state's tobacco tax as a way to raise money for schools and trim business taxes. But Benson has since criticized higher taxes on smokers.

Benson contends the congressman has led the way on little of consequence for constituents back home, even taking aim at a Walz-sponsored law known as the STOCK Act. It prevents congressional lawmakers and staff from using non-public information to benefit in the stock market.

"It's a principled thing anybody would have done. It's not necessarily something that will directly help the people of the 1st District," Benson said.

Walz campaign spokesman Trevor Vaubel told the Rochester Post-Bulletin that congressman would wait to engage in the race.

"Republicans will have a process to select their nominee. Tim Walz is working hard for southern Minnesotans and focusing on creating jobs, growing the economy, and advocating for our nation's veterans," he said.

Walz has an $86,000 head start on Benson, according to his most recent campaign filing. In the last election, he raised nearly $2 million on his way to a 15 percentage point victory.

Aside from Benson, former Republican state Sen. Al DeKruif of Madison Lake has said he is giving strong thought to running against Walz. Former state Sen. Mike Parry, who lost in a 2012 GOP primary for the congressional seat, said he may run again.