By Lynda Jensen
WRIGHT COUNTY, MN Five candidates will now take part in the Republican endorsement process for the District 19B seat being vacated by Tom Emmer Jon Papas of St. Michael, Tracy Vetruba of Howard Lake, Ken Felger of Buffalo, Joe McDonald of Delano, and Alan Johnson of Waverly.
Papas, who is the owner of Haugen Marine Insurance Services, just tossed his hat into the ring Saturday.
At one point in time, seven candidates stepped forward for the endorsement, but three withdrew over the past week: Montrose Mayor Andy Kauffman, Greg Norris of Montrose, who works for the Federal Reserve, and book author and veteran Jason Meszaros of St. Michael.
Debate is scheduled in Rockford Tuesday night
The Republican debate is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 18 at the Rockford Community Center, according to Marion O’Neill, deputy clerk of the Republican District 19B party.
An open forum is also set for Thursday in HL
In addition to the debate scheduled in Rockford for May 24, an open forum is also being hosted 7 p.m. Thursday, May 20 at the Howard Lake American Legion for the candidates running for the District 19B Republican nomination. The forum will be sponsored by the conservative group CampAmerica.
Endorsement of Republican candidate to be Monday, May 24
Following the debate, an official endorsement convention will take place 6 p.m. Monday, May 24 at the Rockford High School auditorium.
Tom Emmer, who is the current state representative for District 19B, is vacating that seat to run for governor.
A closer look at candidates
Four candidates are expressing interest in the seat:
• Delano Mayor Joe McDonald, 43.
In a statement, McDonald said “I am seeking the endorsement for state representative because I believe in common sense government, reducing unnecessary spending, promoting individual responsibility and making sure that government does not impede the growth and prosperity of Minnesota families and businesses.”
McDonald is married to Rachel, and they have three boys Alex, 18, Jacob, 10, and Aiden, 4.
He has been mayor of Delano for four years, and served on the city council for seven.
He is a professional photographer and has been owner of McDonald’s Studio for 21 years.
For the Republican Party, McDonald has been the Delano precinct caucus chairman for 10 years. He has served as a state delegate, and has been active in the Republican Party all his life and has volunteered on numerous campaigns.
In the community, McDonald has been involved in Delano Lions Club for 16 years, Knights of Columbus, Jaycees, Delano Chamber of Commerce past president, Delano Fourth of July Committee, and and Sons of the American Legion, served The Dell’s Place (a group home in Delano) on the board of directors, Delano Community Education board member and president of EDA (Delano Economic Development Authority). He is an active member of the Delano Catholic Community.
• Tracy Vetruba, 33, of Howard Lake, is currently the Howard Lake police chief.
Vetruba is a Christian conservative who pledges to preserve constitutional rights. “We stand up for our constitutional rights and we fight for what we believe,” is listed on his Facebook account. He has a Facebook site. In addition, he has a web site with regular entries to it at http://vetruba.com.
Vetruba attends Delano Evangelical Free Church in Delano.
• Ken Felger, 58, of Buffalo, is also seeking the Republican endorsement for the House seat.
Felger has worked many years for the Minnesota Department of Transportation as a right-of-way manager.
A conservative, Felger says he will work to “restore the principles of an efficient and limited government enumerated in our Minnesota Constitution.”
• Alan Johnson, 52, of Waverly is a businessman who is single. He works for Granite City Tool. Johnson was born in Buffalo, grew up in Montrose, and currently resides in Waverly.
His family owned and operated Red’s Café in Montrose for many years, where he says he learned the value of hard work and how to operate a business with integrity.
Johnson is a member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Waverly.
Growing up, Johnson was involved in Boy Scouts.
He was a member and treasurer of the Montrose Lions Club. He organized and ran the first summer baseball league for youth in Montrose, canvassing for equipment donations.
Johnson has been a member of Toastmasters International, where he was chosen as area governor, monitoring other clubs in the district.
Having held numerous positions within the Republican Party of Wright County, Johnson is a delegate at the district and state level, served as Basic Political Organizational Unit (BPOU) chairman, and was a member of the rules committee. He actively volunteered on Republican campaigns.
Johnson has completed the “Minnesota Permit to Carry A Firearm” course, is an avid pheasant hunter, and is on a trap shooting league at the Waverly Gun Club.
• Jon Papas of St. Michael
Papas has been an active member of Republican Party since 1976. He is a lifelong property owner in Wright County (family cabin at Bass Lake near Annandale), and a 10-year resident of St Michael. He is a small business owner (Haugen Marine Insurance Services). He has been married to wife, Beth, for 19 years.
He is an active member of St Mark’s Church, the STMA Band Boosters, coach of STMA Youth Baseball, a supporter of STMA Community Arts & Theater Programs, communications director of the STMA YMCA Initiative, and coach & Assistant Coordinator of STMA 5th Grade Football Program.
He says that he follows in the footpaths of Tom Emmer. He is pro-life, and in favor of limited government, reducing the size, scope and cost of government. He is "pro-personal responsibility with stern and certain consequences for anyone who disobeys the law," he said. He wishes to protect the right of religious expression. Papas wants to "Create a fairer, simpler tax code, with everyone having skin in the game."
He wishes to:
* Amend the Minnesota Constitution to guarantee a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms
* Amend the Minnesota Constitution to define Marriage as a union between one man and one woman
* Amend the Minnesota Constitution to make English the official language in Minnesota
The Democrats have already endorsed Chris Brazelton of Delano for the District 19B seat.
District 19 includes all of Wright County except for the following: the cities of Howard Lake, Cokato, and Annandale; and townships of French Lake, Middleville, South Haven, Southside, and Stockholm.