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P-B Endorsement: Minnesota House District 26B: Nels Pierson vs. Rich Wright

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Campaign signs typically don't say much about the candidates running for various offices. Aside from identifying who is running and for which office, their intention is more often to show that a homeowner or business supports the candidate.

In the District 26B House race, however, the campaign signs seem to reflect the candidates more than usual. With the seat left open by Rep. Mike Benson's decision to seek the Republican bid for the 1st District Congressional seat, Nels Pierson and Rich Wright are vying to fill the open seat.

Pierson offers campaign signs that are vivid with an emphasis on his unique first name followed by an exclamation mark to highlight what appears to be an enthusiastic campaign.

Wright, on the other hand, is posting signs that are reserved and straight-forward, which are more focused on the office and his photo. The signs offer a more formal image of a man who was being interviewed for a judgeship shortly before deciding to run for the District 26B seat.

In fact, Wright notes his campaign didn't start until he found out he wouldn't become a judge. He answered a call to run in May.

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In contrast, Pierson decided to run in June 2013, shortly before Benson announced he would seek the Republican nomination to run against 1st District DFL Congressman Tim Walz. He waited to make a formal announcement until after the incumbent officially revealed his plans.

Coincidentally, both candidates sought state senate seats in 2002. Wright lost to incumbent Sen. Sheila Kiscaden, who ran as an Independence Party candidate, while Pierson sought the Republican endorsement for a neighboring district, which he lost to Sen. Dave Senjem. We expect that experience has shaped the candidates' efforts as they seek political office again.

With backgrounds in campaigning, both candidates come with agendas that hit on key concerns for voters.

Wright, a trial attorney and civil litigator for Restovich-Braun & Associates in Rochester, said his chief reason for running this time is to address education needs in the state. Noting the state was once an education leader, he said funding two years ago was wrong. He said his goal is to ensure lawmakers never shortchange education again. "We have to make those investments, otherwise we are not going to be able to have the workforce to take advantage of the economic opportunities that are coming," he said.

Pierson, a real estate agent and developer, also comes looking for a change to spur economic development in the region and the state. "Tax conformity is what I'm going to hammer away on," he said, noting he wants the state's system to match up better with the federal system in order to ensure people and companies aren't seeking opportunities in other states. He said it's already too late in some areas. "People who helped pay their fair share are just no longer here."

On many other issues, the two rivals note they need to continue to look into the issues. Both say transportation will be a key issue. While both support continued study of Zip Rail to connect Rochester to Minneapolis, they are more tentative on how to fund road and bridge construction and repair. While we are disappointed few distinct goals were mentioned by either candidate, it is good to see they admit to needing to research the issue.

The topic of MNsure and potential changes was met with similar thoughts. Both noted concerns with differing insurance rates throughout the state and the lack of a way to address the concerns. Pierson, who switched to the exchange because he's self-employed, said changes will be needed. Wright, whose wife is a physician, said he is also aware of the need to help ensure costs are addressed to make sure people can afford coverage.

With two newcomers to the race, neither candidate has a history of legislative votes either to help or hinder their campaigns. As a result, the Post-Bulletin Editorial Board is joining the rest of the District 26B voters in needing to make a decision primarily on what the candidates say and how they say it.

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While we have no doubt Wright's 17 years of experience as a litigator could serve him well in public office, we see Pierson's preparation and drive as the best choice for the district. That's why we're giving him our endorsement.

We're impressed with the fact that Pierson has taken the time to attend meetings of the township boards in the district he hopes to serve. While a good campaign move in a district with a near-even split between rural and urban communities, it also seems to have offered the candidate a unique learning experience.

Recalling a visit to the Quincy Township meeting, Pierson was excited as he explained how board members were personally engaged with the people they represented. He said he hopes to make sure he takes a similar outlook to St. Paul. "The township government is an example to me of where we need our government on the state and the federal level to go toward," he said. "They care about their neighbors."

We agree, and we think Nels Pierson is the right new voice to make it happen.

Related Topics: NELS PIERSON
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