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House 4A, Congress on partisan primary ballot

House 4A Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, is being challenged for his push for a second term in Tuesday's DFL primary.

Mark Thorson, a Bemidji contractor, hasn't said much about Persell in his campaign but rather presented a platform in opposition to the Republican agenda.

Persell, an environmental scientist for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, has basically ignored Thorson and also set his sights on Republican opponent Bemidji Mayor Richard Lehmann for the Nov. 2 general election.

The House 4A DFL challenge is the only local state House or Senate local race on Tuesday's primary ballot. There are also challenges in the 7th Congressional District GOP race and in the 8th District DFL race.

Persell tried twice for DFL endorsement, finally winning the DFL nod in 2008. He defeated Republican John Carlson in the general election, with Carlson running this year against Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji.

A specialist on environmental issues, Persell as a freshman was named vice chairman of the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance Division.

With daughters involved in early childhood education programs, Persell is a strong advocate of education and particularly early childhood education.

"Looking after our elders and our children" is key, the Bemidji Democrat says. "We judge ourselves by how we take care of our children and elders, at least that's how I judge my life."

In the House, Persell has worked on legislation for renewable energy development funds and in lowering corporate tax rates by doing away with Gov. Tim Pawlenty's Jobs Opportunity Building Zones program.

Thorson is a Bemidji native who owns Mark's Sand & Gravel of Fergus Falls. It's his first foray into politics, and he claims he's no politician. He decries the current partisan politics of the Legislature and talks of Democrats who got things done like John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

"I'm not a politician. I'm clearly not a politician. I'm a citizen" Thorson says. "Among many things, I'm a business owner ... I did not come into this race because of the event center, I got into this race because of Minnesota's struggling financial health."

When Thorson first entered the race, he seemed to oppose the Bemidji Regional Event Center, backed by GOP Lehmann. But the building is nearly complete, and that's not his issue -- the looming $5.4 billion state budget deficit is.

"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, Thorson says he can be of help in solving that problem.

Seventh District Republicans endorsed Lee Byberg of Willmar to face U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, DFL-7th District. But first Byberg faces a GOP challenge from Alan Roebke of Alexandria.

Roebke also sought the GOP nomination in 2008 but lost in the primary.

Byberg, who also holds Norwegian citizenship, extols the virtues of freedom and a free-market economy.

"The current administration in Washington, through their over-reaching policies and refusal to cut wasteful spending, has grown the federal government to an impractical and unsustainable level," says Byberg, an executive in the parent company of the poultry industry. "In order to restore fiscal responsibility, we must eliminate unnecessary government programs and spending."

Roebke has dogged after Peterson most of the decade, is a frequent newspaper letter writer and posts regular blogs on farm-related links.

While Peterson took credit for his role in controlling derivatives in the Wall Street reform package, Roebke said the financial collapse caused by derivatives trading happened on Peterson's watch and therefore is his problem.

Roebke is also an opponent of the farm bill, maintaining that farm subsidies should be eliminated.

Veteran U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, DFL-8th Distrist, is opposed by W.C. "Bill" Hamm, a frequent Minnesota House candidate from Bovey.

Oberstar of Chisholm won election in 1972 and every election since. He is chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Hamm says he speaks from the "middle of the political spectrum" and seeks to encourage citizen participation.

He blogs as the Freedom Coalition of Minnesota, which favors such things as better school bus safety and legalization of marijuana.