Three candidates will vie for the position of Minnesota House District 3A representative in a special election Dec. 8.

The position was left vacant in August when former Rep. David Dill died.

The Journal posed the following questions to DFLer Rob Ecklund, International Falls, Republican Roger Skraba, Ely, and independent Kelsey Johnson, Gnesen Township, St. Louis County, in an effort to help voters decide who should represent the district in the Minnesota House.

Each candidate was limited to 500 words in their total responses. Responses exceeding 500 words were cut at the end of the next complete sentence. Only spelling errors were corrected.

  1. Describe the main difference or differences between you and your opponents.
  2. What don't voters know about you that matters?
  3. Describe where you will be and what you will be doing in five years.
  4. What specific steps will you take to improve the district's economy?
  5. What would you do or advise being done with the state's budget surplus?

Rob Ecklund

1. My extensive experience in public service is what distinguishes me from my opponents. I have been fortunate enough to engage our elected officials on many issues over the years at national and state levels. I have worked on environmental and labor issues. I know the process needed and the avenues to take to get something accomplished legislatively. The knowledge and contacts I have gained as a County Commissioner these past five years will be invaluable, because I am already well-versed in public policy and how it affects the lives of my constituents.

2. Most of the voters in 3A don’t know that I am a softie for sad movies. Bryan’s Song, Where the Red Fern Grows, It’s a Wonderful Life, and many others get to me every time I watch them. This is probably an indication of my political roots. We as a society have an obligation to treat all with the respect and dignity they deserve. When needed, we have to be ready to help people achieve their basic needs.

3. In the next 5 years I plan to be retired from PCA/Boise Paper, and be devoting myself full time as the Representative from District 3A. I would hope that I am at least a sub-committee chair in the Legislature, so that I can be even more effective in making our District prosper.

4. There are many things that I think need to be done to fortify the economy of District 3A. The first is to make certain that our traditional “3T’s:” timber, taconite, and tourism are thriving. I believe one aspect of tourism that has great potential for expansion is the building and maintenance of more ATV trails.

We must commit to true border to border broadband. Technology is going to be the key to our future economic sustainability and growth. At this time, I have fiber going by my house, but I am unable to access it. This has to change, and I pledge to work with the DEED Office of Broad Band to do everything possible to achieve this essential goal.

We must continue to upgrade our roads and bridges so that we will have the transportation system needed to adequately move our products and services.

5. One of the first things that needs to be done with our budget surplus is to rebuild our rainy day fund. We must then commit to sustainable formulas that channel State aid to our local governments. If they have steady funding, they will then be able to provide levy relief to our communities. I would also work for tax relief for our small businesses, since they are the backbone of our local economies.

Kelsey Johnson

1. I am an independent candidate. Far too often party politics win out over the district’s interests. I'm not party affiliated because the two party system runs too much already. The work of this district doesn't belong to a party, it belongs to a leader - someone who will work every day for the needs of the people she represents.

As the youngest candidate running and the only female, I bring a perspective that is greatly needed at the Capitol.

Because I come from a rural part of the district, I understand the district’s unique needs and demands. Our access to quality education and services is often a long drive a way. Many of us have unreliable access to the outside world, from spotty cell phone service or inadequate broadband. It’s important that we have strong connections to the outside world to ensure a world-class education for each child, strong support services for all families and high-paying jobs for all workers.

2. Since my youth I have volunteered to serve the people of my region. I’ve dedicated my education and work to build the skills necessary to be an effective legislator. I’m passionate about life in District 3A and I want to keep people and jobs in our community.

3. I plan to be serving the people of northeast Minnesota. I’ve learned to set my sights high and consistently keep my eye on a goal. My goals are the same that many people have; to live on my family’s land, the land we’ve had for over 70 years and raise a new generation there. I have a deep passion for creating a better life for everyone around me and will work daily to help those that ask for help.

4.There are three things that I would like to focus on; small business growth, growing our community and protecting families

Small businesses are the pillars of our community: each business offers unique services dedicated to their community.  Job growth is the single hottest issue facing our district and our region.  If businesses have more revenue to spend, they will either give better benefits to their current employees or hire more employees.  This will help address our district’s high unemployment (and the state's highest unemployment).  

During the upcoming legislative session, I will advocate for fairer property tax environments for small businesses and families.  After successfully advocating for a variety of interests at the Capitol over the last six years, I am uniquely qualified for this role.

5.The best move for the state to make is to give it back in the form of directed tax rebates to incentivize job growth, help families and small businesses, lower property taxes across the board for property owners. We should utilize the funds for one time investments in roads, continue expanding broadband access, and look at reformulating funding for our rural towns and counties to help community members.

Roger Skraba

1. I believe both my opponents are Democrats. I used to be a Democrat but the party has changed too much for me. The Democrats support not opening a cooper-nickel mine in Northeastern Minnesota. Republicans are embracing bringing jobs and a revitalization of natural resources extraction. My opponents support mining, but their party doesn't. If mining is going to happen the local DFL needs Republicans to support it. The liberal left in the Metro will not. Vote me in and I can caucus our issues. I am the only Pro-Life candidate.

2. As Mayor of Ely I have met and worked  with all levels of government officials. I have met with CEO's of major corporations hoping to do business in NE MN.  I have many life experiences to help guide me to solutions to the problems that plague us in NE MN. I am a moderate Republican, similar to how Rep David Dill was a moderate Democrat.

3. Hopefully I'll be representing NE MN in the Legislature. If not I hope to be self employed making a living like I always have.

4. Northeastern Minnesota has a lack of people. I would use our natural resources to attract businesses to grow our economies.

5. The surplus should be used for education first then transportation. If we could somehow use it to help rural healthcare I would support that also.

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