Plenty of new faces have popped up this spring as candidates for various offices at different levels of government. Locally, a pair of longtime senators are retiring and will be replaced. They will be missed, but hopefully those who replace them will, if not continue their legacy, begin new, positive ones.
One seat that may or may not change hands is the U.S. Congressional District 7 seat, currently held by Democrat Collin Peterson, another veteran lawmaker who was first elected in 1990. Peterson's long had a strong grip on the seat, and as chairman of the House Ag Committee is a powerful voice in Washington D.C. for Minnesota and District 7, which covers most of western Minnesota, including Lac qui Parle, Lincoln, Lyon, Redwood and Yellow Medicine counties.
Peterson has kept his name in the news this year - and likely won over some voters - by voting against his party and President Barack Obama's $1 trillion national health care plan that mandates most U.S. citizen purchase health insurance by 2014.
It's safe to say Peterson's challenger in CD7, Willmar businessman Lee Byberg, is facing a mountain of a task, but even if the race turns out to be another runaway for Peterson - he got a whopping 70 percent of the vote in 2008 - at least his challenger is a colorful one.
Byberg was born in the United States, then returned to his roots in Norway. He came back to the U.S. when he was 18 and earned his MBA in finance from the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management. With a thick Norwegian accent, Byberg, who went to high school in Notodden Videregaande Skole, Telemark, Norway, said Sunday he's living the American dream and loving it.
"I'm not so much focusing on me versus Collin Peterson; now I'm just elated to have the chance to do this in America 28 years after I came back. I have seen other countries that are on the other side of freedom, and when I see that deprivation of freedom I think that my generation needs to really educate our young people so they can understand the principles that will continue to make America strong in the future.
"I'm a business leader and have been involved in job creation for many years," added Byberg, vice president at Life-Science Innovations, a parent company of the Willmar Poultry Company. "I believe that's a combination the delegates at the convention recognized when they endorsed me."
Byberg's parents served as Christian missionaries in Brazil and Paraguay. He was raised in these countries as well as his parents' native Norway when his father served as a pastor to churches in the Telemark and Rogaland regions.
Byberg, more savvy businessman than cutthroat politician, has also written, produced and published 13 songs in CD titled "Twice American."
Running against a popular and ultra-powerful incumbent could end up being nothing more than a political learning experience for Byberg, but considering his passion to serve the public and the ease in which he won the endorsement last weekend, there could be room for an upset in November.