MANKATO — With Republicans not fielding opponents for Democratic state Sen. Kathy Sheran and Rep. Terry Morrow, the race between Democratic Rep. Kathy Brynaert and Republican challenger Thad Shunkwiler is the only show in town in terms of legislative races this election year.
That doesn’t appear to have concentrated political interest on the District 19B race, with just 27 people showing up to see Brynaert and Shunkwiler debate at Minnesota State University Tuesday night.
Those who did attend saw an exceedingly civil discussion between the three-term lawmaker and the MSU doctoral student looking to unseat her. While there were none of the attacks and name-calling commonly seen in federal races and some legislative contests around Minnesota, attendees saw a few distinctions between Brynaert and Shunkwiler.
“I set out tonight to really kind of introduce myself to the community and also let people know we have a choice,” Shunkwiler said in his closing statement. “And we have an important choice coming up.”
That’s not the case in House District 19A, which includes several thousand Mankatoans along with all of Nicollet County, Kasota, Lime Township and parts of Kasota and Mankato townships. Voters there will see only the name of Morrow, DFL-St. Peter, on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Brynaert’s District 19B includes the bulk of Mankato, Skyline, Eagle Lake and much of Mankato Township. Sheran, a Mankato Democrat whose Senate district encompasses the two House districts, is also guaranteed a victory because of the absence of a Republican opponent.
Based on answers to a variety of questions Tuesday night, the choice between Brynaert and Shunkwiler will center on voters’ attitudes about the backgrounds of the candidates and their stances on budget issues.
A member of the Mankato School Board for nearly a decade before her 2006 election to the House, Brynaert emphasized her 34-year history as a Mankato volunteer and activist. It started when she saw needs at her daughter’s elementary school and offered, among other things, to be a volunteer playground supervisor.