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Mark Thorson, a Bemidji contractor, faces Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, in the Aug. 10 DFL primary because he believes Democratic voters should have a choice. Each brings different skillsets to the job, Thorson says. Pioneer Photo/Brad Swenson

Thorson gives voters choice in DFL House 4A primary

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Mark Thorson, saying he believes he is the most conservative in the race, wants to give voters a choice in the House 4A DFL primary.

"I've been focused on the Republican Party, and that's what I'm running against on Aug. 10, and that's what the people will decide," Thorson said.

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First he must win the DFL primary against Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji. The Nov. 2 opponent is Republican Richard Lehmann, Bemidji's major who faces no opposition in the Aug. 10 primary.

"I don't view it as going against, but as offering another choice," Thorson said. "I find it surprising about how quiet the Democrats have been about me. They've got their investment in their guy, and I understand that."

He views Republicans as obstructionists in recent issues such as health care, but so can Democrats. "I could be the next John Kennedy sitting here, and the Democrats don't want to know about it. They've got too much investment, or feel their investment is in their guy."

Thorson is an unknown entity, he said. "Nothing should trump or be more important than the electorate -- not any one candidate, not any party, or any particular position."

The best interests of the state should come first, he said. And he views himself not as a politician, but as a problem solver.

"I see hypocrisies and inconsistencies in the Republican Party, and I can find some in the Democratic Party too," he said Friday in an interview. "Some are really obstructing the financial health, particularly of the state and country."

Thorson sees the biggest problem facing the state is its financial health -- both the looming state budget deficit that could reach $7 billion and the need to kick start the state's economy.

"Everything goes back to financial, because if our financial health goes into the rocks, we can talk about problems in health care, education, environmental issues, if it falls into the rocks, they call become secondary," he said.

With a financial and business background in owning a sand and gravel company in Fergus Falls, Thorson says he can be of help in solving that problem.

"There is no pill solution," he said, adding that most people seem to want that one-shot, one-pill solution to the huge deficit. "To really solve something, one has to go into the gym, adjust one's diet, get rid of some bad habits and rearrange some things in one's life."

Government and business is no different, he said.

The whole budget, expenses and revenues, must be looked at, he said. Touching one part of the entity will just push the problem out in another area'

"Anytime anyone starts tampering with a living entity, and that could be government or a business, especially when it's been drained of its cash, resources and funds, as is the state of Minnesota ... you touch any of the elements in that, such as taxes or cutting of some programs, cut spending, it has a hyper reaction in other areas," he said.

For example, cutting a host of state programs on one side will push up on the other side as unemployment, heating assistance, food stamps and a host of other problems, he said.

"One has to look at that engine as a whole," Thorson said. "One has to look where the highest return on investment is and where the least amount of investment is."

He would add money, through taxes and borrowing, "but one has to be very careful that it is a high return on investment," he said. "It's going to take an infusion, but it has to be very calculated and surgical."

He blamed the federal economic stimulus package for as yet not pulling the nation out of recession because it essentially threw out money for jobs without any focus.

"There's a lot of waste and financial mismanagement in government," Thorson said, adding he'd look there before raising taxes. "If there are going to be taxes put forward, it has to be very clear to people who are critical of mismanagement and wasteful programs, predominantly Republicans, how that is going to be managed to cajole them into buying into an increase in taxes."

Any tax increase he'd propose would be a temporary tax, like a surcharge, that blinks off when the economy returns, he said. He also look at fees and other options, such as adding an additional tax on alcohol.

"It's got to be done in the spirit of everything put on the table and saying what can we do for our state," Thorson said, "not what's in it for us. What can we do in a practical, methodical, calculated method with the intention of getting ourselves back to fiscal financial health?"

All state programs need to be looked at from the beginning, clearing the plate. Such zero-based budgeting allows legislators to build a state budget from the bottom up, based on priorities of the public and constitutionally mandated duties.

That includes education, he said. Waste and mismanagement can be found there, as in any state government program.

"Our education system is not preparing kids to compete," he said, but are doing well in some areas. "As an employer, I see young people coming out of school that aren't prepared to compete. They are lacking the sense of urgency and the value of time, and how to compete."

In some activities, kids are awarded through the 25th place, but that doesn't teach competition, he said. "After third place, it just doesn't work out. There's no dishonor in that.

"I may not win on Aug. 10, and that's not a dishonorable thing," Thorson added. "You look at it as perhaps what you brought to the public, hopefully you made the other candidate a stronger candidate and whoever goes on to be representative is stronger."

He doesn't favor early childhood education, saying there is no funding for it now and education funding must be focused on the higher grades first.

In some cases, it's only "state-sponsored babysitting," Thorson said.

In health care, he'd favor a simpler system in which bureaucratic paperwork is limited. That can be achieved with a single-payer health system, he said, but would want to keep private insurance in the system too.

"Private insurance would co-exist with government insurance," he said, and would model it after the Veterans Administration health care. Participants in the government system would waive the right to file lawsuits.

On the environment, Thorson favors multiuse policies, saying there are places to develop AV trails as well as protecting pristine areas.

"The ATV industry is big," he said, saying they also buy gasoline, meals and supplies in local stores. "There's lots of room."

He'd also reduce red tape for companies seeking environmental permits. "Most of us appreciate regulation, it gives us a brighter, cleaner world. My problem is when they are broad-brushed and they obstruct private enterprise."

Common-sense regulation is needed, he said.

He would also seek to target Local Government Aid to cities, reserving it for special uses.

"It should go to cities that are propagating a good fertile ground for small businesses," he said. Cities that demonstrate efforts to aid small business development would get LGA.

"It's not about me, I'm offering another choice, another alternative, a different skill set than what John Persell brings," Thorson said of the Aug. 10 election. "The reason I ran as a Democrat is it seems the Democrats are a little more open to leadership, open to direction that is for the good of folks rather than the way our TV commentators demand by their script."

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