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Republican candidate in SD11: 'We've got advantage'

Rep. Jason Rarick

As the Senate District 11 special election process narrows the DFL side of things in Tuesday's primary, the Republican candidate in the Feb. 5 general election figured to be tied up for much of the day with his current job — representing the Pine City area in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

"I'll be in committees and we'll be in session, so I won't be paying attention," Rep. Jason Rarick said on Monday. "I've mainly been focusing on our race and not worrying about who I'll be up against."

Rarick won Republican endorsement earlier this month, and seemingly has been waiting on the sidelines while Michelle Lee and Stu Lourey campaign in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor primary. Primary polls are open until 8 p.m. Tuesday in Senate District 11, which includes precincts throughout Carlton and Pine counties and parts of St. Louis and Kanabec counties.

Rarick has represented District 11B in the state house since 2015. He jumped into the special election after Tony Lourey vacated his Senate District 11 seat to join the new cabinet of Gov. Tim Walz. Rarick earned GOP endorsement early on at a hastily called convention.

The special election has gained an amplified profile for being the only election on the ballot, but much of the attention to date has gone to the DFL candidates as they wage primary campaigns.

Rarick has found himself the subject of a DFL television ad condemning his voting record, and mailers that have attacked his positions on privatized health care.

"My friends ask, 'Have you seen the commercial?' But I don't even want to know," he said. "I'm just going to plug away with what I'm doing."

In one bright spot for the Rarick campaign, he earned the endorsement of Congressman Pete Stauber last week. Stauber and other party loyalists also threw Rarick a fundraiser in Cloquet last week, too.

"As a conservative who served as a president of my union when I was a law enforcement officer, I am proud to endorse Jason Rarick, an electrician and union member, for Minnesota State Senate," Stauber wrote in his endorsement of Rarick.

Rarick said he was proud of the endorsement from the new 8th Congressional District representative and said Stauber has been "a great help."

"People relate to us," Rarick said, acknowledging similarities between he and Stauber. "Our core values are with the Republican Party, but there will be times we'll be a little different."

Rarick said he's heard as much as $1 million to $2 million could be spent by outside groups on the senate district race. Rarick admitted to being surprised by the total, given that the Senate won't swing on the special election. The Republicans already have a two-seat advantage in the senate. With a win, Rarick would leave behind a DFL-controlled state house.

Rarick described attention to the race as a bit "overwhelming," but he denied being hurt by the added attention being given to a DFL primary.

"We've been getting out to our base and we only have to make them aware of one day and one person," he said. "I think we've still got the advantage, and we've been able to promote that advantage. We know who our candidate is Feb. 5."

The winner of the DFL primary will join Rarick and Legal Marijuana Now party candidate John "Sparky" Birrenbach in the general election.