By Matt Bunke, Community Editor
The ballots are officially set for state and county elections in November after the filing period for those races closed last week, and two of those fall elections will have a decidedly local flavor.
Both candidates for the state house of representatives in District 47A are residents of Watertown or Mayer, including incumbent Rep. Ernie Leidiger (R-Mayer), and his challenger, Keith Pickering (D-Watertown). All three candidates for the Carver County Board in District 4 are also residents of Mayer or Watertown, including incumbent Tim Lynch of Mayer and both of his challengers, Frank Long (Watertown) and Steve Duske (Watertown).
Leidiger will be running for his second term in the state house after entering politics for the first time in 2010, when he was elected in what was then District 34A, but has since been redrawn as District 47A. He said his conservative values in a historically conservative county, as well as his two years of experience in state government, make him a strong candidate to continue to represent residents in his western Carver County district.
"After my freshman term, I think I’ve gained a tremendous amount of experience and influence," said Leidiger, who added that if he were re-elected, he would continue to fight to reduce government’s size and spending. "My views are the same as the majority of the people in Carver County and within the district. I don’t have to pretend. My principles are the same principles as the people of the county."
Leidiger will face DFL challenger Keith Pickering, a Watertown resident who, like Leidiger did 2 years ago, is seeking elected office for the first time. Pickering said his decision to run was influenced by a number of people who have pushed him to do so for years, and that his semi-retired status would finally allow him the time to commit to running for office.
Pickering, an IT consultant and avid historian who specializes in the history of Christopher Columbus’ voyages as well as arctic exploration, had his first book published last year about a Minnesota man’s voyage to the North Pole. He said he’s become more interested and involved in politics in recent years, and said he has grown frustrated with increasing property taxes under a Republican controlled legislature, one of the biggest factors in his decision to seek office.
"I understand the issues, and I’ve lived in this district for 30 years," Pickering said on his decision to run. "I know the people and I know what’s important to people in this district. I’d be honored to be able to represent them."
The state senate seat in District 47 is also up for election this year. All three candidates for that seat, including incumbent Julianne Ortman (R-Chanhassen) hail from eastern Carver County. Ortman will be challenged in an Aug. 14 primary by fellow Republican Bruce Swichtenberg of Carver. The only DFL candidate in the state senate race is former Carver mayor Jim Weygand.
Because of redistricting at the county level, all five seats on the Carver County Board will also be up for election in November, when all five incumbents will run for re-election. Among the five is Lynch, who hopes to earn his third term on the board representing District 4. Lynch was first elected in 2004, and prior to that, he had served on the Hollywood Township Board of Supervisors.
"I think the conservative approach I’ve had for the last 8 years has worked well," Lynch said of his previous two terms. "The average tax impact has been dropping in the county. I think that’s wonderful thing."
Despite the fact that District 4 also covers Waconia, both of Lynch’s opponents are Watertown residents. Frank Long is seeking elected office for the first time, and Steve Duske hopes to return to politics after previously serving on the Watertown city council for 10 years.
Long is the owner of a Watertown based landscaping company, Integrity Landscapes, LLC. He served as the Carver County GOP chair from 2009-2011, and said his decision to run stemmed from his displeasure with the amount of government spending, as well as increasing property taxes despite declining home values. He said if elected, he would bring a tireless work ethic to the job.
"Nobody works harder than me," Long said. "I live politics. I pay attention, and I’m concerned about way government is going at every level. County government is the closest level of government where not just candidates, but voters as well, can have say on how they’re being taxed."
Duske served on the Watertown City Council from 2000 through 2010. He said he decided to seek office at the county level this time because of concerns he developed while serving on the Watertown council.
"The main reason is I’m running is being a councilman for 10 years, I have some issues with the county as far as parity between cities," Duske said. "I want to represent our district so we get a fair shake."
The primary for District 4 is set for Aug. 14. Two other Carver County districts will also have primaries. In District 2, Cheryl Ayotte and Donald T. Smith are challenging incumbent Tom Workman, and in District 3, Vince Beaudette and Jay E. Swenson are challenging incumbent Randy Maluchnik.
There will not be primaries in Districts 1 or 5. In District 1, John Siegfried will face incumbent Gayle Degler, and in District 5, Jim Walter will challenge incumbent Jim Ische.