He offers one piece of evidence of his independence: his vocal opposition to the marriage amendment put on the ballot by the Republican-dominated Legislature.
In a letter to the editor published by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Shunkwiler laid out his conservative credentials but then encouraged other conservatives to vote against the amendment.
He concedes in the letter that his position on the issue will cost him votes: “While I can live without those votes, I cannot live with the idea that I might have to look my friends and neighbors in the eye and deny them the rights that I enjoy based on who they love.”
One local Republican activist told him he was committing “political suicide.”
“My thought is, if standing up for what you believe in is political suicide, show me a cliff,” he said.
An opponent of any tax increases and an advocate of reducing taxes and regulation on small businesses, Shunkwiler said he would be a strong conservative on budget issues. But he portrays himself as “a moderate Republican” overall who would “shake the tree” of both parties’ legislative leadership.
Asked what he would have said to Republican leaders — if he was in the Legislature in the weeks leading up to the 2011 budget stalemate and state government shutdown — Shunkwiler offers only a general criticism of their approach.
“I would have urged both parties to put aside the partisanship and look at the average Minnesota family. That’s who we need to serve,” he said.
On a vast range of legislative issues, Mankato-area residents have opinions, experiences and expertise to offer lawmakers, according to Brynaert. And she said she’s well-positioned to convey their input to fellow legislators when laws are being made and budgets negotiated.
“The community history and the networking is what I bring,” she said. “... Some (candidates) have an issue that they’re going to go after. But from the beginning, my commitment to this work is based on my being integrally connected to this community and my life in this community.”