GOP first-time candidates eye seats of Faust, Masin, Newton in next election
The 2010 election was a rough one for Democrats in the Minnesota Legislature. In the state House, Republicans picked up 25 seats to gain a solid majority. Momentum shifted back in the DFL’s favor in the next election cycle, and more than a few of the “new” legislators who won a seat in the Capitol in 2012 were, in fact, returning lawmakers who had been unseated two years earlier.
These Democrats represent what are still perceived as toss-up districts, and a new crop of Republican contenders has already begun signing-up to knock the DFL incumbents back out of office.
Jason Rarick, District 11B
How House District 11B votes this year might come down to which candidate that district’s constituents think they can trust.
Jason Rarick, a new legislative candidate seeking the Republican nomination, portrays himself as an honest, straightforward man. An electrician by trade, Rarick has operated his own business in the Brook Park area for nearly a decade.
Rarick had previously run for posts in his township and county government boards, losing both contests. But his involvement with Republican groups in Pine and Kannebec counties must have made an impression somewhere along the line. In September, party activists approached Rarick and asked if he wanted to get into the race to challenge incumbent Rep. Tim Faust, DFL-Hinckley.
Possible campaign themes Rarick might explore include recent tax increases and MNsure, the state health insurance exchange, both of which were passed by Democratic majorities in 2013. But since his declaration, Rarick has heard stories from some district residents alleging that Faust was less than honest with voters last time around.
According to those constituents, Faust had told voters that he would not vote in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage if it came to a vote in the Legislature. Faust, who was then seeking a third nonconsecutive term, ultimately won election, and, in 2013, was among the DFL moderates who voted to legalize gay marriage.
Rarick said people he has heard from seem more upset about being misled than by Faust’s vote itself.
“Whether I agree with people or not, I’m going to be upfront and honest,” Rarick said.
For his part, Faust rejects the allegation outright. In fact, he recalls telling voters that he planned to vote against the amendment to ban gay marriage, a position that reflected his possible support for legalization. Faust said when constituents asked him directly at the time, he said he did not know how he would come down on that issue, saying he could see both sides of the debate.
“I guess you can change your mind from undecided to decided,” said Faust, who reiterated that he did not make a final decision on the gay marriage matter until just weeks before the House voted to pass the bill.
Rarick, who is the only declared Republican so far in that district, said he is currently trying to bring together a team with campaign experience.
Victor Lake, District 51A
It seems likely that no legislative candidate running in 2014 will have taken such a long journey as did Victor Lake. The third-oldest in a family of eight children, Lake was born in Uzbekistan; at the time, that country was still a satellite state in the iron grip of the Soviet Union. Later, his family moved to the northern Caucasus region of Russia, where Lake said life was equally “tumultuous.”
In 1997, the family immigrated to Minnesota, relocating to the southern suburbs of the Twin Cities. There, Lake’s parents set about finding work, eventually starting their own small business, and Lake and his siblings began assimilating to their new country.
For Lake — who changed his surname as an adult after his given last name proved too difficult for Americans to pronounce or spell — those early years outside the United States had a profound effect on how he views the world. He considers himself a patriotic American, and is “tremendously thankful” to the state of Minnesota and its people. Now, he has decided to try to play a part in shaping that state’s future.
Lake is one of two Republican candidates running in House District 51A, the Eagan-area district currently served by DFL Rep. Sandra Masin. Masin is in her third nonconsecutive term in the swing district. In 2012, the former financial services agent regained the seat by winning a rematch against Republican Diane Anderson, who had ousted Masin in 2010.
Lake, who runs a small construction business that focuses on tiling projects, said he had heard from multiple people in that area that Masin was not adequately representing their interests at the Capitol.
“I know that [Masin] is out of touch with the people of my district,” Lake said.
Specifically, Lake plans to focus on lowering taxes and loosening regulations, saying the latter could help fix issues with the state health insurance market. Lake thinks the creation of MNsure, the state health insurance exchange, is the wrong approach to lessening the financial burden of high costs for consumers.
“We should work to expand innovation in our health care, and increase competition,” he said. “In a real, competitive market, the quality will go up and the price will go down.”
Chris Stolarzyk, District 37A
Chris Stolarzyk had only been in college a few months when he “caught the political bug.” A native of Blaine, Stolarzyk attended Midwestern State University in Texas, where he soon got involved in the student government, and was later elected president of that body.
After graduating with a degree in political science, Stolarzyk attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C. There, he took advantage of the chance to serve as an intern to U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., and later got experience volunteering for a congressional primary campaign in Virginia.
Now, Stolarzyk wants to put all of his experience and interest to work in a campaign for House District 37A, a seat currently held by Rep. Jerry Newton, DFL-Coon Rapids. Newton is in a second nonconsecutive term in the Legislature: His return path to the Capitol was made easier after now-Sen. Branden Petersen, R-Andover, decided to seek an open Senate seat. Facing political rookie Mandy Benz, Newton, a former sergeant major in the U.S. Army, won handily, collecting 57 percent of the vote.
Stolarzyk respects Newton for his military service, but thinks the incumbent and the majority party have not done right by the district’s constituents. The GOP candidate wants to focus the campaign on jobs and the economy, as well as wasteful government spending, pointing to the new Minnesota Vikings stadium and the $90 million Senate building complex as bad investments approved by the Legislature.
The new candidate has already undertaken local research to help prepare for his campaign, and can recite statistics off the cuff: Nearly 12 percent of Minnesotans live under the poverty line, including more than 170,000 children.
The state’s best approach to alleviating that problem, Stolarzyk argued, would be to invest in a high-quality education and create a business-friendly environment, especially for smaller, newer enterprises.
“We need to pursue those policies that help small businesses in the early years,” he said. “Those first few years are crucial.”