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PROFILES Gutknecht, Mikkelson seek GOP banner

Gil Gutknecht

Age: 55

Hometown: Rochester

Family: Wife, Mary Catherine Keefe; three grown children.

Work experience: Six-term member in the Minnesota House of Representatives; six-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives; chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Operations Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry; vice-chairman of the Science Committee; and member of the Government Reform Committee.

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Education experience: Graduate in 1973 with a business degree from University of Northern Iowa.

Volunteer experience: Used skills as an auctioneer to raise $2.2 million for charity since elected to Congress.

Gregory Mikkelson

Age: 50

Home: Lake Crystal

Family: Two grown children, Adam and Erin.

Educational experience: Two-year degree in agribusiness at Mankato Central College.

Work experience: Small-business owner and fourth-generation farmer.

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Volunteer experience: Member of Masonic Lodge; volunteer for March of Dimes and Ducks Unlimited, a group that promotes wildlife habitat

By Matthew Stolle

mstolle@postbulletin.com

Tuesday's Republican primary for the 1st Congressional District is a David-and-Goliath affair. It will pit six-term GOP Rep. Gil Gutknecht against Greg Mikkelson, a candidate making his third bid for the congressional seat.

It is Mikkelson's first bid for the seat as a Republican, following unsuccessful campaigns as the Green Party candidate in 2002 and the Independence Party candidate in 2004.

Mikkelson, a Lake Crystal small-business owner and farmer, described his decision to run as a Republican as a kind of homecoming. He was brought up in conservative-leaning circles, he says. But the problem with the Republican Party is that it has gone astray, pursuing raw political power at the expense of its values and good government.

"It's about a power struggle to keep in power. It's not about good legislation anymore," Mikkelson said.

Mikkelson said he's troubled that the country's national debt has almost doubled in the past 12 years and questions whether Gutknecht has the enthusiasm to push for Republican values without competition.

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He says the United States went to war in Iraq under false pretenses. And he calls the proposed DM&E; railroad expansion the product of raw politics.

"I'm against the expansion through downtown Rochester," said Mikkelson, who also opposes the way the $2.5 billion provision was "snuck" into the transportation bill by GOP Sen. John Thune without discussion. "I don't think that's fair politics."

Gutknecht says that if re-elected, he will continue the push for renewable fuels. He says southern Minnesota is uniquely positioned to be a leader in ethanol, biodiesel and wind power.

Gutknecht said Congress needs to refocus on controlling spending.

"Prior to Sept. 11, 2001, we sharpened our pencils and had balanced the budget. We actually paid down half a trillion dollars of debt," he said. "No one could have imagined the economic consequences of Sept. 11. The costs of the war, a recession combined with Katrina and other disasters got us off course."

Gutknecht cited his battles against the big pharmaceutical companies in allowing American consumers to access FDA-approved drugs in Canada and Europe. In that same vein, the country can go a long way toward reducing health care costs by promoting initiatives such as health savings accounts and prescription drug market access, he said.

"Today, because we enacted sound economic policies, reformed welfare and lowered taxes, we have doubled the size of the economy, moved families from welfare to work, and reduced tax burdens on all Americans," he said.

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