NEW ULM - Republican candidate for governor Marty Seifert returned to New Ulm for a fundraiser on Wednesday hosted by Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) and Sen. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls).
Torkelson and Dahms announced their support for Seifert in his latest bid for Minnesota's top office, encouraging southwest Minnesota voters to vote for Seifert in the Aug.12 primary election. Seifert is one of four Republicans seeking the spot on the November ballot to oppose incumbent Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat.
Torkelson first came to know Seifert during his first term in the House of Representatives in 2008. "I came to respect his style of leadership and his best abilities as leader of our caucus at that time," said Torkelson. "We managed to do good work even though we had small numbers. A lot of that was because of [Seifert's] leadership."
Marty Seifert is running in the gubernatorial primary on the Republican ticket.
Dahms cited Seifert's understanding of important issues as a factor in his endorsement.
"Seifert's experience in health care, education, taxes and regulation, energy, and agriculture translates to a strong command of the issues most important to Minnesota voters in this critical election year," Dahms said.
Endorsements from Torkelson and Dahms are important, Seifert said, because people in southwest Minnesota take their recommendations seriously.
Seifert, who is originally from Brown County, said it was important to get the support of local legislators. He is also seeking statewide support. He recently completed a campaign tour of all 87 counties in Minnesota.
"Unless you are there, I think there is a struggle to really understand how deep some of the issues are," said Seifert, citing Minnesota's diversity. In traveling the state Seifert learned of different issues impacting various regions, such as tourism in Lake of the Woods, mining in the Iron Range, medical in Rochester, and agriculture in Brown County.
Seifert said he is the best candidate to unite Minnesota due to his experience.
"I've spent 18 years on the farm, four years as a public school teacher, nine years in higher education, 12 years as small business owner, 14 years in the legislature, three years as realtor and three years as a hospital foundation director."
A top priority for New Ulm has been the expansion of Highway 14 into four lanes to increase safety and provide better transportation for commerce.
"Nobody drives Highway 14 as a governor's candidate more than Marty Seifert," he said.
Seifert supports changing Highway 14 into a four-lane road, but he also cites the need for work on county roads. Seifert believes that a third of the bonding bill should be reserved for roads and bridges, infusing $4 million into funding road infrastructure. Seifert opposes placing the funds into a larger transportation bill to avoid subsidizing light rail transportation, which he said has never passed cost-benefit analysis.
In terms of the economy, Seifert believes it is important to match jobs with skills and create a competitive climate for business through taxing and regulation. Seifert specifically cited the need for mining permits in northern Minnesota. "Those are jobs across the board. It's a 19-year-old who can drive truck all the way up to an engineer who is going to design the mine and everything in between."
Seifert warned that with the tax bill and the business climate, businesses are moving to North Dakota. "We've got to be sensitive to that. I am not naive enough to believe we will have a zero income tax or a zero regulatory environment, but we have to be at least competitive and not an outlier."
As a former teacher Seifert is a major supporter of education.
"Every child ... should be treated equally in the eyes of the state government. That is not the case right now. Children in New Ulm, Minnesota, get $2,000 less per child than a child in Minneapolis. We care for all kids. It does not matter where they live. We want to make sure that in the governor's office we have someone cheering for every child," Seifert said.
Seifert has supported parents' rights to choose schools, but he admits choice will not solve all problems. "School time has been eroding for the last 30 years. Kids are in school less than anytime in Minnesota history. ... I don't think that makes sense to the average tax payer."
On health care, Seifert suggested passing medical malpractice reform bills that were previously vetoed by Dayton creating less-narrow, banded health insurance choices.
"I think all of us know, regardless of our political ideology, when you have more choices for a product or service, prices go down and quality of service goes up," he said.
Seifert favors trying different pilot programs to reduce health care costs. He suggested creating health vouchers to pay for insurance to better release market forces and give individuals choices. Seifert felt that on a federal level a voucher program could solve some of the recent problems with the Veterans Administration.