Sundin, Ahlgren face off in DFL District 11A primaryDFL voters will choose which candidate for State Representative District 11A – Bruce Ahlgren or Mike Sundin – at the polls Tuesday, Aug. 14. The winner will advance to the general election in November, to face Republican candidate Jim Putnam and Independence Party candidate Cory Pylkka
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Before the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party endorsing convention, a total of four people had announced their candidacy for the newly formed Minnesota House of Representatives District 11A , which includes all of Carlton County, plus Brevator, Culver, Stoneybrook and Arrowhead townships in St. Louis County and Windemere and Kerrick townships in Pine County. At the Barnum convention, however, Esko’s Mike Sundin gained the unanimous endorsement of his party and the other three candidates gradually dropped out as the voting progressed.
Then Bruce Ahlgren entered the race.
Now DFL voters will choose their candidate for State Representative District 11A – Ahlgren or Sundin – at the polls Tuesday, Aug. 14.
Both men are well-known in Carlton County.
Ahlgren, 62, is currently the mayor of Cloquet, an elected position he’s held for 13 years. Prior to that, he served on the Cloquet School Board for 12 years. Ahlgren began his career as a teacher and active member of the teachers’ union in Two Harbors. He returned to Cloquet, married Marla Maki, and worked in construction until he was hired as a probation/parole officer for Arrowhead Regional Corrections. At age 27, Ahlgren was appointed as Court Administrator for Carlton County and remained in that position for 30 years until he retired. He and Marla have three children: Angela, Jill and Jonathan, all grown, and two grandchildren.
Sundin, 54, is currently employed as a business market development consultant by the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 82. A 34-year member of Painter and Allied Trades Local 106, Sundin has served on the Labor World Board of Directors since 2003. Described as a “party workhorse” in the endorsement announcement, Sundin has been a DFL activist for more than 35 years and chaired the Carlton County DFL for eight years. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2008. Sundin also served on the Cloquet School Board for five years before moving to Esko.
Republican candidate Jim Putnam and Independence Party candidate Cory Pylkka are also listed on the primary ballot under their respective parties, but both are unopposed and will automatically move on to November’s General Election.
In the meantime, the Pine Journal asked Ahlgren and Sundin to respond to three questions to give voters some insight into their experience and position on the issues.
Pine Journal: How does your past experience, job or education qualify you to serve in the Minnesota Legislature?
Minnesota’s public education system has provided a solid base for my lifelong learning experiences. Continuing educational opportunities at Itasca Community College, Lake Superior College and the University of Minnesota Duluth have added to that base by providing specific skills and knowledge used in my work.
During the last five years as a Business Market Development Consultant I have honed my diplomatic and sales skills to fit the needs of the labor industry. For over 30 years I have negotiated contracts without work stoppages while advancing the interests of my union members. This private sector “real life” perspective could be of service to our state as well.
My participation in leadership roles in a number of organizations has been personally rewarding. It was an honor to serve on the Cloquet School Board for five years and president of the Labor World Newspaper Board of Directors for the last 10. I believe service to others should be viewed as a duty of citizenship.
I am a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth; Court Managers School; Institute for Court Management; Blandin Leadership School; and I accrued over 15 continuing education credits each year for over 25 years. I served as Court Administrator for 30 years, 12 years on the school board in Cloquet (five years as chair), I am currently the mayor of Cloquet, and was recently named president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities. I serve on the WLSSD (Western Lake Superior Sanitary District), the ARDC (Arrowhead Regional Development Commission) and was appointed by Governor Dayton to serve on his Tax Reform/Local Government Aid committee. As twice past president of our court managers association and on its legislative committee for 30 years I have been working with and advising the legislature on a number of issues. My past experience with schools, cities and courts has given me the experience to continue as state representative.
Pine Journal: What are the top three issues facing the area right now and how would you address them at the legislature?
1. Education is the top priority on my list for our area. I believe P-12 (don’t forget pre-school) and higher education is the basis for an informed citizenry and must be supported with generous funding. We need the legislature not to just say they will fund all education but actually stick by their word. We need to educate our young with smaller class sizes and continue to support our experienced teachers.
2. Creating good jobs is something I am passionate about and have been working on – area and statewide – for a number of years. I am a pro-labor candidate in favor of collective bargaining rights and will fight for jobs that pay fairly and ensure safety of workers. I am currently on the Cloquet Economic Development Authority, Arrowhead Regional Development Commission and president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities. It is my priority to work on economic development for greater Minnesota cities. As a representative I will have a louder voice to aid this work.
3. The state needs to truly balance its budget and not just shift the burden to the next legislature or next generation of taxpayers. As a member of the governor’s tax reform/local government aid committee, I am helping to simplify our tax code and cut loopholes. We need to pay back the schools their $2.4 billion shift and look for new forms of revenue. The deficit is so great we cannot tax our way out of this problem, so we need a bi-partisan effort to truly balance our budget.
1. Local flood damage is a stark reminder of the power of Mother Nature. Federal and state programs will eventually address the infrastructure repairs, but will do little to address the lasting financial burdens many homeowners will face. A progressive tax structure is needed to compel those who have reaped the financial rewards of our society to pay their fair share to support our state would and has in the past provided for “rainy day” funds to provide relief to communities in emergencies.
2. Minnesota’s commitment to public education has become weakened by financial shifts that place more of the funding responsibilities on local school boards. Forcing districts to borrow operating funds to satisfy political point gains at the state legislature is a cowardly way of avoiding our duty to educate young people. “Money saving” initiatives such as consolidations, charter schools, and health insurance options for school district employees will be carefully evaluated before they get my support.
3. I will vigorously oppose voter disenfranchisement, state sanctioned bigotry and attacks on workers’ rights through constitutional amendments. These proposed amendments should be viewed as restrictions on our democracy, and each individual’s inherent rights. A constitution should establish and protect the rights of the governed.
Pine Journal: Our political system seems to be broken at the state and national level. How would you work to make sure we don’t have another government shutdown or other problems caused by excessive partisanship?
In spite of a light Democratic voter turnout in 2010, Governor Mark Dayton was elected largely because he promised to try to alleviate Minnesota’s budget woes with higher taxes on the wealthy. He originally proposed raising income taxes on incomes above $250,000.
During negotiations, he compromised, and offered to only slightly raise taxes on only the 7,700 millionaires and seven billionaires in Minnesota. Still, the Republican Legislative majority refused to budge and meet the Governor halfway, and the state government shutdown was the result.
Some poor and middle class individuals were hurt by the shutdown immediately, and when it became apparent that the number of people affected by the shutdown would increase, and that the Republicans were only interested in protecting 7,707 wealthy individuals, Dayton then used a solution based compromise to end the shutdown for humane reasons.
What you refer to as “excessive partisanship” on this topic is only a corporate media smokescreen to deflect the reality of the rich getting richer at the expense of the poor and middle class. There is no moral justification to keep cutting middle class jobs, without expecting those who prosper the most from a just and civil society to sacrifice too.
I will attempt to meet my legislative goals seeking innovative and, if needed, bipartisan solutions. Hopefully, thoughtful legislators will prevail in this fall’s election.
We need to bring civility back to the legislature with a legislature that works for the people first and foremost. My experience in school, city, county, state and national government will help me in St. Paul to bring the message to the legislature that we have to work together for the people. I have worked with legislators on both sides of the aisle on issues with courts, schools, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, Moose Lake Prison, Carlton County, sport venues and many other issues over the years. As the old adage says: Experience counts. I have that experience for you.