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'I think we're common-sense people': Kim Crockett, conservative candidates campaign at Pine Island rally

Two major topics arose: motivating a red wave in the upcoming election, and addressing alleged voter fraud in the 2020 election.

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Kim Crockett, who is the GOP-endorsed candidate running for Minnesota Secretary of State, speaks at a Choose Freedom Rally outside Pine Island on Sept. 21, 2022.
Dené K. Dryden / Post Bulletin
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PINE ISLAND — A crowd of about 90 people gathered just outside Pine Island Wednesday evening to hear from GOP-endorsed secretary of state candidate Kim Crockett and other conservative candidates for office during a Choose Freedom Rally sponsored by Minnesota Patriots.

The event included 23 candidates for state and local office, such as Crockett, Rep. Steve Drazkowski, GOP contenders for House Districts 20A, 20B and 25B and Rochester mayoral candidate Brit Noser.

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Two major topics arose during the rally: motivating a red wave in the upcoming election, and addressing alleged voter fraud in the 2020 election.

"The liberals think that people who love freedom in this country, that we're focused on Dominion machines and other things. That's not it," said Drazkowski, who is running for the Minnesota Senate in District 20.

"I've spent a good part of the year with all of you across the state. I don't think we're blue. I think we're at least purple. I think we're common-sense people, and I think they've overreached," Crockett said, referencing Gov. Tim Walz and her opponent, incumbent DFL Secretary of State Steve Simon.

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The rally was held on Sara Bertschinger's property. Bertschinger said she helps with communications for Minnesota Patriots, a recently formed group that she described as "a grassroots group of individuals who get together and just try to figure out how we can be a part of the solution."

Bertschinger said a core group of 10 to 15 people have been coordinating Minnesota Patriots' events and outreach. She and the others weren't involved in political organizing at this level before 2020.

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Attendees mingle with conservative candidates for office at a Choose Freedom Rally outside Pine Island on Sept. 21, 2022.
Dené K. Dryden / Post Bulletin

"We just started trying to learn and grow," she said. "It's just a lot of civic learning and trying to share the information with others so that people can be engaged. It's not necessarily about being about partisanship as much as it is about, 'OK, just learn, grow, do your own research and come up with your own opinions and discuss them.'"

Before the rally, Anne Tabat of Lake City said that this was the first time she had been to a political event featuring a secretary of state candidate.

"What makes this year different? I don't know," Tabat said. "I am interested in history, and I'm interested in people and in people being able to live their best lives at all points in history."

She described politics as a very small part of who she is and said she would be looking for truth in candidates' speeches.

"It's very hard for people to make good decisions about their life when they get conflicting information," she said.

During her time on the stage, Crockett referenced claims that she is an election denier.

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"Did you just hear any disinformation? Do I sound like an election denier?" she asked the crowd. "No, I sound like an American who's saying that I don't think this is right."

The two candidates, who have both served in elected office prior to running for the Minnesota Legislature, spoke to a wide range of policy issues at the Rochester Public Library Monday evening.

While Crockett called fraud a "feature, not a bug" of mail-in voting, she did not cite any specific examples of fraud found in Minnesota's 2020 election.

"By the way, we have 46 days of voting. It starts Friday. Forty-six days to do what?" Crockett asked. Several attendees answered, "Cheat."

Crockett also recently received scrutiny when she stated on a podcast in 2018 that she is "not willing to get up in the morning and go work for people who aren’t from here," per reporting from the Sahan Journal . Immigration was a largely unspoken through line in other speakers' thoughts on election laws. After Crockett spoke, emcee and pastor Dale Witherington asked the crowd to imagine flying to Iran, then China, then North Korea to vote in their elections, an apparent stab at immigrant Minnesotans.

"Do you understand that the absolute insanity of anybody who thinks we're suppressing votes," he said, "when all we're doing is protecting votes? We're protecting the rights of the citizens of the United States of America. It is a country, and it's ours."

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From small towns to farms and across the state, outside the big cities Minnesota shows its conservatism.

As the night wrapped up, Minnesota Patriots organizer Brenda Hinsch said she thought attendee turnout was good. While Hinsch has served as an election judge for 20 years, she decided to get more involved after the 2020 election.

"I just don't know that everything was on the up-and-up," she said, adding that she would like to see voter ID legislation and to not have electronic equipment involved in elections.

Hinsch, Bertschinger and Tabat aren't alone in their recently growing involvement in politics.

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"We definitely had a lot more people in our primary," Hinsch said. "I think people are getting more interested and just checking into a lot more things, for sure."

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Rochester mayoral candidate Brit Noser introduces himself at the Choose Freedom Rally held outside Pine Island on Sept. 21, 2022. He was one of 18 people present who are running for office at the county, city or school board level.
Dené K. Dryden / Post Bulletin

Dené K. Dryden is the Post Bulletin's region reporter, covering the greater Rochester area. Before joining the Post Bulletin in 2022, she attended Kansas State University and served as an editor for the student newspaper, the Kansas State Collegian, and news director for Wildcat 91.9, K-State's student radio station. Readers can reach Dené at ddryden@postbulletin.com.
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