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Senate District 27

The race in Senate District 27 features a veteran lawmaker who is being challenged by a longtime party volunteer.

The race in Senate District 27 features a veteran lawmaker who is being challenged by a longtime party volunteer.

Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, first won election to the Minnesota Senate 2002. He touts that experience as a prime reason why voters should send him back to the Capitol.

"Rural Minnesota is losing representation at the state level, so I think now more than ever it's important to have experienced leaders with a track record of working across the aisle — like I've done with everyone — and see that our needs are addressed," Sparks said.

Hayfield carpenter Gene Dornink is making his first run for public office, even though he has long been active in the local Republican party. He argues that Sparks has lost touch with the voters and it is time for a change. If elected, Dornink said he would rely on his common sense and vows he would limit himself to a maximum of three terms in office.

"I will listen to my constituents, and I will be out there to talk to them about what happened during the session," Dornink said.


Support for tax cuts

Both candidates say passing tax relief is a major priority. Sparks said he wants lawmakers to pass the $260 million package of tax cuts that failed to become law this year after the governor refused to sign it due to a one-word error. He said that bill provided needed relief for working families, businesses and veterans.

"We were able to put together a really good bill. I think it proved that both Democrats and Republicans can work together to come up with tax relief for all Minnesotans," Sparks said.

Dornink agrees that lawmakers did a good job putting that tax bill together and said he was disappointed to see the governor block it. He wants to see additional steps taken to reduce the tax burdens on small businesses.

"We need to make the business climate friendlier for our business people. Nobody's against paying taxes. We know we have infrastructure (needs). we have things we have to do. That's fine. There just comes a point where people are leaving the state because the burden is too high," Dornink said.

Disagreement on gas tax

The candidates split on whether or not a gas tax increase should be part of a long-term transportation funding plan. Sparks said he is open to the idea of a small gas tax increase. He said that could be combined with bonding dollars and general fund money to boost transportation funding.

"We have to have compromise. I don't think one source is going to totally do it," he said.


Dornink opposes the idea of a gas tax increase. Instead, he likes the plan put forward by House Republicans that would redirect some auto-related sales taxes from the general fund to transportation. He also supported the $1 billion bonding bill that failed to pass, which had $700 million in funding for transportation.

He added, "I don't want the gas tax because it hurts commuters. I think there are other ways."

Senate District 27: Dan Sparks

Senate District 27: Gene Dornink

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