P-B Endorsement: Minnesota House District 28A: Gene Pelowski vs. Lynae Hahn

Regardless of who voters in District 28A elect to serve them in the Minnesota House of Legislature, they can be assured the seat will be filled by a tireless legislator.

Incumbent Gene Pelowski, who has held the seat for 28 years, is being challenged by Winona State University student Lynae Hahn, who helped restart the Winona State College Republicans in 2012.

Hahn's enthusiasm for her campaign is obvious as she discusses her desire to bring a change of representation to the district. She said it's time for more younger people to take roles in government and offer their peers a voice.

But the rural southeast Minnesota native isn't going in blindly with ideals often born of immaturity. She has seen how local officials operate. As a child, she worked on her father's school board campaign, which resulted in him serving eight years. As a high school senior, she was his campaign manager when he decided to run for a county commissioner seat.

The lessons of campaigning gave way to an understanding of how to deal with people, she said. Watching her father and talking to those he dealt with as a public official, Hahn said she learned about the importance of considering others' opinions and viewpoints when trying to negotiate. She said that's something she hopes to bring to the office. "Obviously, I have my values and those are pretty strong and they are not going to change, but when you come to the table, you have to get what you can," she said, noting she has used her negotiating skills as a WSU campus resident assistant, and she feels she can do the same as a legislator.


For Hahn, much of her legislative desires stem from her conservative views. She doesn't shy away from that. She proudly notes she will fight to uphold traditional family values she thinks frequently come under attack in the political landscape. Seeking a degree in business administration, she said she also sees a need for reduced government involvement in small business and agriculture. She wants to see reduced taxes and work to ensure tax dollars are being used effectively.

When speaking on the legislative topics that could arise in the coming term – whether it's saying the MNsure health insurance exchange should be replaced or wanting to seek ways to improve transportation funding — Hahn's passion for politics is obvious. It's the same passion she has brought to the College Republicans, where she said she has advocated to ensure both sides of the political picture are available on the WSU campus.

As a 22-year-old student, she said she knows she has a steep challenge in trying to unseat Pelowski, who has has been in the same office since before she was born. As a supporter of term limits, Hahn said Pelowski has been in the position too long.

Pelowski obviously disagrees. As he nears the end of his 14th term, the former high school teacher said he has much more to do in the House. As chairman of the House Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee, he said he has been working to ensure there is greater oversight on spending. He said while fighting tuition increases at state colleges, he also wants to make sure the state's money is being spent wisely. Saying he's done with the "dog-and-pony shows" presented by university officials who pitch their budget requests, he said it's time to take a closer look at spending. "I want to go back to an account by account look of our higher education budgets," he said.

When he's talking about higher education, it becomes obvious Pelowski's focus is to make sure the funds are spent properly and colleges continue to serve both the state and the students enrolled. While he retired from teaching high school social studies in 2012, he continues to teach a class to future educators at WSU and operates an annual model legislature program at the university.

On other issues, the DFLer tends to take a more centrist approach. He opposed the bullying bill and minimum wage bill – both key initiatives in his party's agenda during the last session. He said the measures went too far. He criticizes the bullying bill for creating a new department inside the department of education and says the minimum wage effort should have matched the federal rate and made small changes after that. "We passed too much, and some of it was ill considered," he said of the 2014 session.

At the same time, he tends to be more liberal when talking about tax revenue. Pelowski shuns the word "surplus" when discussing the extra $1.2 billion seen in 2014. "That money was dedicated to replenishing what we already had said what we were going to replenish," he said, noting it went to schools, cash reserves and a rainy-day fund. "I would say rather than calling it a surplus those were funds generated by raising revenue. That revenue was then reinvested."

In the end, he said it's about helping the people of his district and the state get on the best path.


That dedication — along with his unique ability to be a strong voice for southeast Minnesota — is why the Post-Bulletin Editorial Board is endorsing Gene Pelowski .

Combining Pelowski's 28 years in the Legislature with his continued connection to students in his class and activities at WSU makes him a force in the Legislature, which even some of his political opposites will admit. While he could retire, it's easy to see he's driven by serving the people he represents.

Asked why he hasn't considered becoming a full-time lawmaker, he said legislative decisions are best made when lawmakers are working and living within the community they serve. "You should suffer the consequences of what you pass," he said. "You should go out into the real world and find out what element of whatever you pass and say 'This is terrible, what idiot decided to pass this? I guess it's us.'"

We like the philosophy, and we like the energy he continues to bring to the office.


Learn more

The Post-Bulletin Editorial Board endorsements are offered to provide one view of candidates for local, regional and statewide offices.

We encourage you to do your own research as well as you get ready to vote.


To find out more about the candidates running for House District 28A, visit their websites:

• Gene Pelowski:

• Lynae Hahn:

Upcoming endorsements:


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Endorsements published:

Oct. 6: Rochester School Board Seat 6

Oct. 7: Rochester School Board Seat 5

Oct. 8: Olmsted County Board District 4

Oct. 9: Rochester City Council Ward 5

Oct. 10: Rochester City Council Ward 3


Oct. 13: Rochester mayor

Oct. 14: Olmsted County sheriff

Oct. 15: Minnesota House District 26B

Oct. 16: Minnesota House DIstrict 26A

Oct. 17: Minnesota House District 21B

Past endorsements are available online at

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