MANKATO — It’s been a long stretch since a Republican won Mankato’s seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
The last time it happened, Ronald Reagan was walloping Walter Mondale in the presidential election, sickly Konstantin Chernenko was serving his short-lived stint as leader of the Soviet Union, the Apple Macintosh and crack cocaine made their debut, and the Minnesota Twins’ new centerfielder was a skinny rookie named Kirby Puckett.
Thad Shunkwiler is the latest Republican to attempt to break the nearly three-decade losing streak for his party that began in 1986 with Democrat John Dorn’s defeat of Rep. Mark Piepho, R-Skyline. An Army National Guard soldier and doctoral student at Minnesota State University, Shunkwiler isn’t making predictions of victory in his race against three-term Democratic Rep. Kathy Brynaert.
But Shunkwiler thinks his views match those of most Mankatoans.
A win is possible, he said, “if people can see beyond the fact that I have an ‘R’ behind my name and see that I’m an independent thinker with a fiscally conservative philosophy.”
While Brynaert has a “DFL” behind her name, she thinks her decades-long history of community involvement is a more important factor than party affiliation in her three comfortable wins since Dorn’s retirement. And she thinks her connection to business leaders, the school system, college officials, health care providers, local nonprofits and others is what makes her the better choice Nov. 6.
“What’s really important in a community like ours is that community vision has priority over partisan ideology,” Brynaert said.
‘A better place’
The first thing Shunkwiler promises to bring to the Legislature if elected is a new attitude.
As the father of a 5-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son, Shunkwiler said he’s worried about their future if partisanship in Minnesota becomes the norm: “I looked at my kids and I thought, ‘I want to put us in a better place than we are now.’ Because if we continue down this road of divisiveness, it doesn’t lead anywhere good.”