Nearly 30 Breckenridge, Minnesota citizens gathered at a home on Beede Avenue, to meet candidates for the 9th Legislative district. The event, hosted by the Wilkin County DFL party, saw Cornel Walker and Nancy Jost speak to voters on their reasons for running and hopes for Minnesota’s government moving forward.
Conversations ranged from women in government, oral and mental healthcare, bipartisan compromises and the importance of bringing rural perspectives to the state senate and house of representatives.
Folks made their way into the event where they were greeted by Breckenridge City Council candidate Evie Fox. She met everyone with a smile and friendly conversation as they filled out their name cards and got situated.
Chatter bounced and echoed through the house as attendants waited to be ushered to the back patio where the candidates would be speaking.
Metal foldout chairs were set up around a wooden podium atop the concrete stairs leading to the backyard lawn. A light breeze and the soon-to-be setting sun assisted in setting the tone for the whole meeting.
Host Vernae Hasbargen, began by introducing the attendants to Jost, who is running for state representative in district 9A.
“I was thrilled for Nancy to step up and run,” Hasbargen said. “It’s so encouraging to see women step up to bring their talents to the government.”
Jost began by introducing her family history and the progress she has made for the district through her work at West Central Initiative.
“My mom and dad really shaped who I am today,” Jost explained.
As the director of early childhood at WCI, Jost was able to start an early childhood dental network that would operate at schools in the district. These programs would help low-income students who may not have access to these services.
She further explained the need for better oral healthcare in the area, stating she was confused why our mouths and our brains are legally covered in different ways than basic healthcare.
This issue and many other issues like it may not be seen as often in urban areas and Jost recognizes this. One of her main goals of going into congress is to bring a rural perspective to the table.
Walker, state senator candidate, took the metaphorical mic (there was no microphone) next echoing the same sentiments; bringing rural perspectives to the Minnesota government. He said the capitol would benefit from his presence and likewise, he would ensure urban politicians make the journey to rural Minnesota.
The mediation lawyer’s goal — compromise.
“Too long have we denied each other the ability to talk,” Walker said. “I want to be able to cross the aisle and speak to Republicans. I want them to know if I say no I mean no and if I say yes I mean yes and finish with a handshake.”
Further explaining he feels voters should choose the candidate that will be the best for the district, not which party they belong to. Finding bipartisan answers to the issues facing folks throughout the state requires lots of conversation.
Walker knows this and has emphasized this in his campaign process, knocking on over 2,500 doors so far.
“I don’t know everything, I want to hear what people have to say,” Walker said. “I want those politicians in St. Paul to come out here and listen to the farmers and ranchers and see what they need.”
Every speaker noted the importance of this election, especially in the state senate.
According to Hasbargen, the DFL only needs to flip three seats in the senate to take control. But it’s not just important at the state level.
“This is the most important race we’ve ever seen in this state and this country,” Walker emphasized. “The soul of this country will be decided in this election. The key is to vote, vote and vote!”
Walker clarified that he didn’t see Republicans as the enemy, but just citizens with a different view of life. Before passing the invisible mic he shared one final opinion.
“I am completely for well paid, well trained law enforcement,” he said.
Finally, the penultimate part of the night saw Erin Gunderson honored for the service she provided to the Breckenridge community.
Gunderson moved to Breckenridge in 2013 where she became the library branch manager. In her time in the city she managed to write grants to get murals in the Twin Towns Area and at one point was the Wilkin County DFL chairperson.
Hasbargen read a speech written by 2018 governor candidate Erin Murphy, thanking Gunderson for her invaluable and enriching public service.
“Minnesota is lucky for your time,” Murphy wrote.
Leaving the city earlier this year, Gunderson now works as a librarian at the Fargo Public Library.
Jost and Walker both ran in uncontested primaries in August, but must face off against their Republican-endorsed opponents in November. Due to redistricting, the pair will now run in a district comprising Wilkin, Traverse, Grant and Otter Tail Counties.
“We will not forget the people in Traverse County and Wilkin County and Grant County because their voters are vital,” Walker said.