John Carlson, the Bemidji Republican House 4A candidate in 2008, announced Saturday he'll seek the Senate 4 seat held by Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji.
"I learned a lot about campaigning in 2008," Carlson told 90 delegates to the Beltrami County Republican Convention. "Even though I didn't win that race, you and thousands of others supported my election in spite of the anti-Bush tsunami that swept so many Democrats into office."
An open seat, the House 4A race was won by Democrat John Persell.
"The stakes in Minnesota have never been higher," said Carlson, a Bemidji insurance agency owner. "We have a massive budget shortfall that Democrats want to resolve with higher taxes and unsustainable spending programs in the name of jobs."
Carlson, a Certified Management Accountant and adjunct business professor at Bemidji State University, plans to hold a series of "meet and greets" Monday throughout the district, which ranges from Gull Lake north of Brainerd to Bemidji.
He's like to pick up $1,000 at each stop, accepting no more than $100 per voter.
"I will be responsible to my constituents," he told GOP delegates. "I will limit individual campaign contributions to $100 and only from voters of Senate District 4. Local voters must determine this election, not lobbyists, not political action committees of big businesses and unions, and not special interests."
In an interview, Carlson said he would take only up to $100 from Senate 4 voters and will not accept PAC money, even that from local political parties which normally donate to local candidates.
"That includes party money, because I don't know where that money comes from," he said. "I think it's time that people just want to say I'll give you my $5 or $10 or $25 - there's probably 80,000 people in Senate District 4 and 38,000 to 40,000 of them will vote. Of that I need about 20,000 to win this election. If 20 percent of those people give me $25, I have enough to finance a campaign."
To delegates, he said he would encourage energy independence through the promotion of renewable and nuclear energy, defend the Second Amendment right to own firearms, and support the value of human life from conception to natural death.
"I will assure the integrity of every Minnesotan's vote with the requirement of a valid photo identification card," he said. "Legitimate elections are the foundation to our freedom."
He'd also support a responsible education system with local control and restore Minnesota's lead "in a strong culture of education," he said.
"I will promote private-sector job creation through the lowering of taxes on business and the reduction or removal of burdensome regulations and permits," he said. "We must create job opportunities here in northern Minnesota. Government's responsibility is not to create jobs but to create a climate in which private-sector jobs can flourish."
He wants to make state government more fiscally responsible and less intrusive. "Minnesota cannot continue to use your property as an ATM machine. You can spend your money better than the state of Minnesota."
Olson, an attorney, is seeking her second four-year term as senator. She defeated Republican Sen. Carrie Ruud of Breezy Point.
Carlson said he mostly wants to listen to constituents. Since his 2008 defeat, Carlson has become a grandfather and has another grandbaby on the way.
"I just can't stand by the sidelines," he said in the interview. "I honestly believe that I will be a very good legislator, whether it be in the House or the Senate. Somebody's got to stand up and do it."
There's an advantage of having run before, and maybe even in losing, he said. "There's so much to learn about running a campaign. You don't just pop up and say you're going to run."
Carlson said he will be commenting on Olson's voting record, but plans to basically keep a positive campaign.
"I keep getting asked, by people from both parties, they keep telling me we need someone who will listen," she said. "We're tired of being lectured to, we're tired of having representatives that just talk to us, talk down to us.
"We just want someone who will listen and then use their common sense and make some laws," he said. "Not too many, we don't need too many laws. Let's keep government out of the way; we need government to be a referee."
He's not a fan of big business nor of big unions, he said. "When things get too big, they're out of control. Government doesn't provide jobs very well."
Public safety and education are areas government does do well, he said. "Beyond that, government needs to be a referee., not a source of income."
About the campaign, Carlson said that "this race isn't about Mary Olson and it's not about John Carlson. I see this race, honestly, as being about the people in Senate District 4. The people of the district want a voice and they want to know that I'm not in bed with the union, I'm not in bed with Big Business, I'm not in bed with any special interest -- that I'm going to be their voice. They know that nobody's financing me but them."
Carlson's stops on Monday include:
- 8 a.m. Deer River, Shelly's Family Restaurant, 45 minutes with breakfast
- 9:30 a.m. Remer, The Depot
- 10:30 a.m. Longville, Gallery of Homes
- Noon Pequot Lakes, Maysons Bar & Grill, hour lunch
- 1:30 p.m. Pine River, to be determined
- 3 p.m. Akeley, Senior Citizens Center
- 3:45 p.m. Walker, Village Square
- 4:45 p.m. Cass Lake, to be determined
- 5:30 p.m. Bemidji, The Cabin Coffeehouse