DFL candidates note increased interest in campaigns

Tailgate in Marshall draws Peterson, state House candidates

Photo by Deb Gau After the burgers were cooked, area DFL supporters stayed warm by the grill at a Saturday tailgate event in Marshall.

MARSHALL — There’s still a lot of work to do in the remaining weeks before November, but Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidates running in southwest Minnesota say they are seeing some positive signs as they campaign.

“There’s a renewed interest in politics,” and in the DFL, said Tom Wyatt-Yerka, one of the area Democratic candidates running for the state Legislature.

Area DFL supporters were dedicated enough to draw a crowd to Justice Park on Saturday for a tailgate cookout on what turned out to be a chilly afternoon. The event brought together DFL candidates for state and national offices. U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson made an appearance and gave an update on both his work on the Farm Bill and the District 7 Congressional race.

Peterson said the race in CD 7, where he is going up against Republican candidate Dave Hughes, has taken some interesting turns. In September, President Donald Trump tweeted an endorsement of Hughes against “Pelosi Liberal Puppet Petterson (sic).”

However, after the president’s tweet, Peterson said, he started getting campaign donations. He joked, “I’m trying to figure out how to get Trump to tweet again.”

“This is a tough district” for Democrats, Peterson said of CD 7. He’s representing an area that is strongly Republican. But at the same time, he said, “There’s been a lot of enthusiasm on the Democratic side,” and some good turnouts at party events. Although the race isn’t going to be easy, he said it’s possible “we have the wind at our back this time, instead of the wind in our face.”

In the meantime, Peterson said, “We’re still trying to get a Farm Bill.” That was going to be his job once the next congressional session started up, but he said getting the bill together was not going to be an easy job.

Peterson also spoke in favor of Tim Walz’s run for Minnesota governor.

“I’m very excited about Tim,” Peterson said. “He’s the right guy for the job because he’s got all the background he needs for Minnesota.” Walz’s knowledge of the state would serve him well, Peterson said.

While Peterson was the most high-profile guest at the cookout, area residents were also getting to know their candidates for the Minnesota House of Representatives, like Maxwell Kaufman and Wyatt-Yerka. Kaufman, a Fulda resident, won the DFL primary race for Minnesota House District 22A this summer. He’s challenging Rep. Joe Schomacker, R-Luverne, in the district that includes the southern part of Lyon County, as well as Lincoln, Pipestone, Murray and Rock counties. Wyatt-Yerka, a Marshall resident, is running in Minnesota House District 16A, against Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent.

Both Wyatt-Yerka and Kaufman have spoken out in support of rural Minnesota, with campaign issues like working to make health care more affordable, supporting economic development and expanding high-speed Internet access in southwest Minnesota.

Kaufman’s campaign issues also include regulatory reforms to help support in-home day care providers, and increased access to mental health care in southwest Minnesota.

Wyatt-Yerka’s campaign issues also include improving transportation infrastructure in southwest Minnesota, and government reforms like requiring bills be introduced with time for legislators to read them.

Kaufman and Wyatt-Yerka said they’ve seen an increased amount of interest in this year’s election.

“Definitely, especially on the campus at SMSU,” Wyatt-Yerka said. The university’s College Democrats are becoming more active than they have been in past years, he said.

The current political climate was likely one factor in the increased interest in local DFL races, Wyatt-Yerka and Kaufman said.

While campaigning, Kaufman said, he’s gotten a pretty positive response.

“Even when people disagree with you, they’re willing to have a conversation,” he said.

The opportunity to have those conversations was actually part of the reason Kaufman said he was running.

“I want to tell people what we have to offer from a progressive perspective,” he said.

Wyatt-Yerka said another effect of the current political climate is that more Minnesotans are stepping forward to try and make a difference in their government.

“I think there’s been a broader understanding” that anyone can run for office, he said.

However, Kaufman and Wyatt-Yerka said increased interest in DFL candidates didn’t mean they were going to take things easy in the final weeks of campaigning. Both said they had plenty of door-knocking planned in area communities.