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St. Charles farmer to challenge Feehan in Disrict 1 race

Ralph Kaehler, a St. Charles fourth-generation family farmer and businessman, said Tuesday he is running for Congress in the 1st district as a Democratic candidate.

Ralph Kaehler mug
Ralph Kaehler is runningfor Congress in the 1st district.
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ST. CHARLES — Ralph Kaehler, a St. Charles fourth-generation family farmer and businessman, said Tuesday he is running for Congress in the 1st district as a Democratic candidate.

Kaehler, 58, said his candidacy stems from the frustration many people from Middle America are feeling at the lack of progress in Washington, D.C. Getting things done is the primary reason for his candidacy. 

"I'm like most of the voters. I'm not an insider," Kaehler said during an interview. "We need to get things done, and Middle America needs to get more involved." 

"The America I grew up in was about working together to achieve common good, not a daily battle on TV and Twitter of us versus them," he said. 

Kaehler's announcement comes two weeks after DFL candidate Dan Feehan declared his intention to make a second run for the 1st congressional seat. Feehan lost against the current officeholder, Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn, by 1,300 votes in their first meeting in 2016. 

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In a none-too-veiled swipe at Hagedorn's time working in Washington, D.C. before his election, Kaehler said it was "imperative" that the 1st district be represented by "someone who has lived here, had their career here and invested their lives here."

"I think that makes a big difference in how you represent the people of the district," Kaehler said. 

Kaehler, 58, said that expanding trade for farmers and addressing climate change would be two issues driving his campaign. He highlighted the economic and job opportunities in the renewable energy sector by noting that his eldest son runs one of the fastest-growing solar businesses in the state.

"As a farmer, we need trade, not tariffs," he said. "When Gov. Ventura went to Cuba, we're the farm family that met with Fidel Castro and opened up trade. Our talk was trade brings peace."

As a first-time political candidate who is just introducing himself to voters, Kaehler acknowledged being at a "severe disadvantage" in the name recognition department relative to both Feehan and Hagedorn. But he said his campaign mantra would be, "What have you done in Minnesota for Minnesota. I'm the horse to win this race."

A lifelong resident of St. Charles, Kaehler is a fourth-generation farmer on his family's 138-year-old farm. He said he has been eyeing a run for Congress for some time now. The opportunity to run was created when he began transferring ownership of the family farm to his youngest son, Seth. His oldest son, Cliff, is CEO of Novel Energy Solutions, a family business that Kaehler has ownership in.

Kaehler said he had not decided whether to abide by the endorsing process, but his plan was to win the endorsement of delegates at the DFL congressional convention. He said he believed his strength would come from middle-of-the-road, independent voters. 

"The people in the middle who haven't been involved in either of the parties — they're solid voters. We need to understand how to make sure their votes count, too," he said. 

Related Topics: JIM HAGEDORN
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