Tom DeGree, a Democrat from Lake Elmo, will once again challenge incumbent Rep. Kathy Lohmer, R-Stillwater, to represent District 39B in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
District 39B includes about half of Stillwater, as well as the cities of Lake Elmo, Oak Park Heights and Bayport. It also includes Grant, Pine Springs, and areas as far south as St. Mary’s Point.
DeGree, who announced his candidacy Feb. 24, garnered about 47 percent of the votes in his first bid for the seat in 2012. He lost to incumbent Lohmer by about 1,200 votes or 6 percent.
In 2012, DeGree said, he was unknown and faced what his campaign calls “an unprecedented influx of special interest funding against him.” But he thinks he has a good chance to win this November.
“After a year and a half of really listening and talking, (my team) decided that we would try to run, and this time we’re going to win,” DeGree said. “As a candidate, I think I am much more prepared to know what’s going to come. I understand the process, and I understand what it takes to win. So I think that doing this in 2014 is going to be a completely different thing than 2012.”
Lohmer says she’s up to the challenge.
“I look forward to contrasting my view that we should be protecting family budgets against the Democrat notion that government needs to take more of your hard-earned dollars with whoever my opponent may be,” she said.
DeGree’s announcement of candidacy focused on the fact that he is a Lake Elmo native, as well as his experience as a teacher and small business owner.
“I know first-hand what it takes for our local businesses, and our students, to succeed,” he said in the announcement.
DeGree, who has spent the last 20 years teaching in the St. Paul School District, also became a small business owner more than 10 years ago when he and his partner opened the Wilde Roast Cafe in Minneapolis. The business employs more than 70 people and has plans to open a second restaurant.
“Government needs to encourage the success of our small businesses, not make it harder for them to grow,” DeGree says on his website. “I understand the importance of keeping our taxes low. … As a member of the House of Representatives I will work to ensure businesses in Minnesota have an environment where they can thrive, and our kids have quality educational opportunities.”
Lohmer on the other hand, believes her record the past two years proves she’s the right candidate to represent the district.
“I’ve rolled up my sleeves and have been working in a bipartisan way to combat the use and sale of synthetic drugs,” she said. “I am proud to have stood strong against $2.1 billion in tax increases, including business-to-business taxes that will hopefully be repealed this session, the unionization of childcare providers, $150 million spent for a MNsure website, along with a board of directors with essentially no oversight, as well as standing in opposition to the new $90 million Senate office building with workout center and reflective pool.”
In addition, Lohmer said she was “instrumental” in working with Gov. Mark Dayton and local officials to bring Valley Cartage’s headquarters to Lake Elmo, and that she also worked with Dayton to restore funding for Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge to open a Rochester facility. She also pointed to her success in working with Oak Park Heights to secure bonding to assist with utility costs associated with the new bridge over the St. Croix River.
Despite her claims of bipartisanship, DeGree says Lohmer is too uncompromising on Tea Party issues, which makes it difficult to work with a DFL House and Senate.
“For too long, our parents, business owners, educators and neighborhoods have been shut out of these important conversations,” he said. “It’s time to build a strong middle class and a brighter future for our community.”
Lohmer, however, claims one-party control of state government is the real problem.
“My constituents tell me that one-party control of St. Paul has been detrimental for them and their families,” she said. “I hope to continue to carry my message of fiscal responsibility and limited government back to St. Paul.”
Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]