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John Carlson of Bemidji, newly announced Republican candidate for Minnesota Senate 4, talks to supporters Monday evening at The Cabin Coffeehouse, ending a day with "meet and greets" throughout the district. Pioneer Photo/Brad Swenson

Carlson launches Senate 4 campaign

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John Carlson, the Senate 4 Republican candidate, had tears in his eyes as he picked up and held infant granddaughter Kelli Marie.

"This is why I'm doing it," Carlson, with a crackling voice, said to supporters Monday evening at The Cabin Coffeehouse. "Right here -- it's because of her."

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It took a few minutes for Carlson to recover, before continuing to answer questions from the 20 people who attended the "meet and greet," capping a nine-stop day in launching his Senate 4 campaign.

Before the outbreak, Carlson said that "it's time that we get involved ... because he can't sit by."

In an interview, Carlson called it a "deep emotion" and that he usually breaks down when talking about his granddaughter or the grandchild to come.

"It's about what are we leaving for our kids," he said. "What are we leaving for my grandkids, or everybody's kids. We need to restore where we were. We've gotten so far away from the message the founding fathers left us. We have people that are so complacent about our government that they don't care - they don't even vote."

The idea that "I can make a difference" needs to be restored, he said.

And that's the campaign he wants to wage against Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji, who will be seeking a second term this fall. Because of reapportionment, the Senate term this fall will only be two years.

At each stop, he asked for contributions -- something different from his 2008 run for House 4A, a race won by Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji.

This time, Carlson said he is accepting only up to $100 per voter for his campaign and nothing from anybody else -- no political party money, no political action committee funds and he won't accept public financing.

"This campaign is going to be about responsibility," the Bemidji insurance agency owner said. "It's time that we had legislators that we elect who are responsible to the people."

Not taking special interest money is the way to do that, he said. "I'm not taking PAC money; I'm not taking lobbying money. They can put their checkbooks away, because only the people of this district are going to have buy-in to this campaign. If you can vote for me, you can give me money, but you can't give me more than $100."

Asked in an interview about third-party advertising over which the candidate has no control, Carlson said he would encourage they stay clear of the Senate 4 election.

"If they want to know what I want to do, stay out of my race, stay away," Carlson said, "back away, stay out of my race. Let me run my race the way I want to, stay out. I don't want your negative campaign, I don't want them."

He told the group that about 20,000 votes would be needed to win the election, and if 20 percent gave him $25 each, that would yield $100,000, "and more than enough to win this race."

Carlson announced his candidacy Saturday at the Beltrami County GOP Convention. Many of his remarks were the same as what he told delegates, that he is a strong anti-abortion candidate and supports Second Amendment rights to gun ownership even to the point of seeking a state constitutional amendment.

"We need to be responsible with the checkbook," he said of state spending, with the state facing a $1.2 billion deficit. "We have budgets that are going out of control. The government we have right now is not sustainable. We cannot continue to grow 17 or 18 percent a year and have that last."

Government should provide essential services, he said, such as public safety, education, transportation infrastructure and courts. "There's a lot of fluff in our government -- we need to get it back in the box."

He embraces GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty's idea of a constitutional amendment that the state can't spend more than the revenue it collected the previous biennium.

Carlson would limit regulatory takings of private land, and would promote the use of nuclear energy. He would use natural resources n a responsible and sustainable way.

He'd also prevent any effort to not have Minnesotans elected their judges and justices.

Asked about rising and wasteful welfare spending, Carlson said people who are unable to provide for themselves need help, but all others need to work.

"When we have a program where we help people get out to work, help them get on their feet, those are good programs," Carlson said. "But if we're just going to pay someone to lay around ... do it (work) or don't get a check."

There is a "marginal amount of people in our society" who need help, he said' "But we do not need to make a fluffy, feather mattress for them."

People feel better if they can be made productive, Carlson said. Also, people accepting welfare should submit to drug testing.

"Are we just going to make it easy for people to do nothing?" he asked. "This is America. This is the land of opportunity. This is where people can rise up from the ashes -- they can come from a mixed race background and become a president of the United States.

"Get off your butts and go to work," Carlson said in raised voice. "You can be anything you want to be - Obama proved that. ... Just get off your butt and do it."

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