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Editor's column: Local Dems have mountain to climb

September 24, 2010
By Per Peterson

It took 12 questions and nearly an hour-and-a-half of talking politics at Thursday night's candidate forum at the Marshall Area YMCA for the first sports metaphor to be thrown out by a candidate.

That candidate was Ramona Larson, who is running against Chris Swedzinski for the House 21A seat being vacated by Rep. Marty Seifert. Larson was explaining why she choose to "get into the game" and run for office.

I dig sports metaphors, so here's another one: Larson, herself - along with District 21 Senate candidate Al Kruse - is an underdog.

Both are Democrats running in a district that has favored the other side. History tells us as much:

The last DFLer to serve Lyon County in the House was Norm DeBliek, who served from 1987-88. DeBliek defeated Jim Boerboom by 200 votes in their race. But DeBliek's win was merely a blip on the radar screen for Democrats and he didn't last long, going down to Republican Jim Girard in 1989. Girard was succeeded by Seifert, who won all of his elections handily.

With Seifert's reign as 21A representative coming to an end, it's Larson's turn to turn the Democrats' fortunes around. But the way she sees it, any underdog label put on her isn't about party affiliation. She admits being an underdog, but not because she's a Democrat running in a conservative district.

"I guess I could be considered a darkhorse in that I've never been involved in politics," she said. "I don't believe it's because I'm a Democrat that makes me an underdog. That's not as much of an issue as it used to be. I think people have shifted and want people more centered and willing to work together in government. I certainly see myself as a new face, a new voice, regardless of any party affiliation.

"In terms of stats, in our district there have been some strong Democratic winners and leaders, (Congressman) Collin Peterson being one, and there was a strong vote for Obama within our district."

Still, it's hard to ignore the Republicans' stranglehold on the seat. Republicans held the seat during the eight years leading up to DeBliek's time in office - Russ Stanton from 1973-78 and Cal Ludeman from 1979-84.

On the Senate side, the Democrats are in a similar boat. The last Dem to serve Lyon County among senators was Gary DeCramer (1983-92). Republicans Arlene Lesewski (1993-2002) and Dennis Frederickson (2003-current) have represented the district since then. Before DeCramer, DFLer Jim Nichols (1977-81) was sandwiched between Joe Josefson (1955-76) and Randy Kamrath (1981-1982).

Kruse, who says his stance on raising taxes isn't a real popular one, isn't scared off by the underdog label. He relishes it.

"Definitely an underdog, absolutely an underdog - there's no way I can be considered anything but,"?Kruse said. "It's an overwhelmingly Republican district."

Kruse, running against Gary Dahms, was originally going to run for a House seat but got shifted to the Senate side, which meant a larger area for him to travel to get his name and face out there. That's another obstacle that both he and Larson might have working against them.

"There are many people in the area that are aware of me and my name but don't necessarily link me to politics,"?Larson said. "I have some name recognition and I hope that will carry through, but a lot of folks have never heard of me, so that is a challenge."

Both Larson and Kruse are good people and should be commended for getting into this game. But they're both fighting an uphill battle and if they defeat their opponents in 38 days, they'll also be defeating history.



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