Voters will choose a new house representative Tuesday, for a new house district, with a choice of two new candidates.
The new House District 9B encompasses most of Morrison County and parts of Todd County and represents nearly 40,000 residents.
Candidates for the seat, Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, and Adrian Welle, D-Pierz, are each seeking a legislative seat for the first time.
And while they may be newcomers to seeking a legislative seat, each has served his community on a local level. Kresha, a former educator and a current business owner in Little Falls, has, among other things, served as a member and one-time president on the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Council.
Welle, the city clerk in Upsala, is currently serving as a member of the Pierz City Council.
Welle said he estimated the new House 9B district is more than 60 miles from east to west and 40 miles from north to south.
Both candidates have traveled across the district since announcing their candidacy, racking up the miles, visiting each city several times, they said.
Kresha and Welle said they’ve hit nearly every parade in the District.
“I’ve been in 18 parades,” said Welle. “Our campaign has been in 19. We’ve been knocking on doors in every town in House District 9B.” He’s been to several communities up to nine times during the campaign.
Kresha said he’s been in 15 parades. “We’ve knocked on every community’s doors at least twice or three times in some communities. I’ve been in almost every community in the district at least three times.”
In listing the top three concerns he’s heard during his campaign travels, Welle said property taxes came in at number one, and that’s where his campaign has been focused.
“Most of the stories I hear are about people losing their homes because of the property tax increases,” said Welle. “They can’t live here because of the lack of jobs and they can’t afford their homes.”
Second, was the concern over funding for education, and finally, jobs and economy and “getting rural Minnesota back to work,” he said.
These, Welle said, were the overall themes of the conversations he and his campaign workers had with residents.
At the top of the list for Kresha, was concern about the rural economy and the lack of growth — especially when people told him their children and grandchildren had moved away because of the lack of jobs.
“That leads me to believe we have to do a better job with our innovation and technology and light manufacturing,” he said.
Kresha found people eager to talk about social issues, from abortion to marriage.
“What I really find is we have a generation here that is steeped in tradition … their way of life is changing and they want to make sure they have a say in how our future generations are raised,” said Kresha.
Agricultural issues, such as farming regulations, Kresha said, have to do with home-owners and hobby farmers starting to live in agricultural areas, who didn’t realize that such things as dust and odors are part of the farming way of life.
The fact that people didn’t mind him knocking on their doors at home, surprised Welle.
“I could not believe the number of people that really want to chat and really want you there,” he said. “I learned something new every day. These people are absolutely amazing.”
Kresha said he wasn’t surprised by much during the campaign. “I very much understand the way of life and traditions up here, because it’s similar to where I grew up,” he said.
“There are a lot of great people here, with a very conservative viewpoint on how to live their lives,” said Kresha.
“They shouldn’t be attacked for that, but they also have to be helped a little bit as to why we need to bring in more companies, light manufacturing,” he said. “People are afraid of being taxed out of their way of living; they’ve worked hard for that lake home and for that retirement home.”
The only way to change that, Kresha said, is to change the equation to increase the property tax base by getting more people to move to the area.
“We’ve got to sell some homes; we have to grow. If we don’t grow out here, no government program in the world is going to save us,” he said.
Welle said, if he’s elected, he plans to reach out to legislators in the Metro, “Both Republican and Democrat,” he said.
He’d like to bring the Metro legislators up here, he said, just to educate them on the fact that while it’s a large area, the property tax base is not here, and small cities depend on local government aid.
“They have the city of Bloomington in one House district,” said Welle. “Here we are 60 miles or so across … 40 miles up and down.”
He would build alliances to find those who would support rural Minnesota, especially in light of the fact that through redistricting, greater Minnesota is now represented by fewer legislators. Four house representatives were lost and two senators in outstate Minnesota, he said.
Kresha felt he had a good enough understanding of issues to be effective in St. Paul.
“I’ve never been afraid of any situation,” he said. “I believe you can learn and figure it out. I’m very willing to build coalitions, work with people, get things done … get in there and work with other people,” he said.
The candidates both felt their campaigns stayed on the positive side.
“I think we’ve been very nice to each other. Everyone says that it’s very refreshing — everybody is saying, ‘Whoa, what’s going on here?’” Welle said.
He did say when people found out he was a pro-life Democrat, they told him he needed to switch parties.
“I wish the campaign was about the individuals. I am more for the district than for the party,” said Welle. “This district is what is important to me, not my party. I consider myself a moderate Democrat, a fiscally conservative Democrat.”
“I very much respect the fact that we have honored Adrian’s issues and his family life in a positive way,” said Kresha. “And he’s done the same to me. It’s been nice to fly under the radar.”
House District 9B includes all of Morrison County except for Lakin and Morrill townships and portions of Todd County including the cities of Burtrum, Grey Eagle, Long Prairie and Swanville and Bruce, Burnhamville, Grey Eagle, Long Prairie and Round Prairie townships.