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Senate District 10: Ruud, Stevenson offer mostly different views

Senate District 10 candidates disagreed on the marriage and voter ID amendments but agreed on the greatest challenge to the area’s environment and on how legislators should be paid.

The differences and the similarities were outlined at Tuesday’s Brainerd Lakes Area League of Women Voters’ candidate forum at the music room at Central Lakes College in Brainerd. About 20 people attended the forum.

Aquatic invasive species were singled out by Republican Carrie Ruud, of Breezy Point, and Democrat Taylor Stevenson as the largest threat to the environment and to the tourism industry. Ruud said zebra mussels were already in Gull Lake and other area lakes and said that if Asian carp were not stopped at the locks down river then recreation as residents know it in the Brainerd lakes area would be “done.”

Stevenson said he would like to see funding to fight aquatic invasive species go to the DNR and lake associations. He said he was willing to talk about finding revenue to fight aquatic invasive species and would like to see landing monitors standing at docks as a preventive measure.

“They (the state) need to be taking this head-on,” Stevenson said. “Minnesota ultimately is about our natural resources. All this takes money.”

Responding to a question about fair compensation for legislators Ruud suggested the state might want to pay a good salary to lawmakers and eliminate per diem payments. The plan, she said, might have the added benefit of getting rid of frivolous meetings.

“We agree on this one,” Stevenson said.

More conflict was seen on a variety of issues as Stevenson emphasized his life-long roots in the district and Ruud, a former one-term senator, stressing her experience.

Stevenson, 24, a Baxter resident who is a substitute teacher and football coach, said he lived about 500 yards south of the campus. He said like many in his generation he’s struggling with the reality of student loans and a challenging economy after graduating from Dartmouth College. He said he was fortunate to have the support of his parents. The unsuccessful 2010 candidate for the state House said he was chosen recently as one of the 10 Outstanding Minnesotans by the Jaycees and was active in the Vote Yes/Yes campaign to support a Brainerd School District levy and in Poverty Bound.

Ruud said she had a full-time job in real estate while her opponent has part-time jobs. She noted she was endorsed by the National Rifle Association and previously authored the Minnesota Personal Protection Act.

“I’m pro-life from conception to natural death,” she said. “My opponent is pro-abortion.”

Ruud said she’ll vote yes on the marriage and voter ID amendments. Stevenson was opposed to both measures.

She said marriage should be one man and one woman.

“I do believe we need to put it in our Constitution because we have judges who are legislating from the bench,” she said.

Stevenson said Minnesota already has a law on the books banning gay marriage.

“This is nothing but dirty politics...things that win elections,” he said.

He said the voter ID amendment was fiscally irresponsible and could endanger mail-in ballots and the votes of military personnel serving overseas.

“It’s (voting) a constitutional right,” he said. “You can’t put barriers up.”

She said Minnesota should live within its means and said her opponent wanted to raise state revenues without having any skin in the game.

Stevenson criticized Republicans for taking away the property homestead tax credit and said Minnesota had a structural deficit that needed to be addressed. He rejected Ruud’s claim about him not having skin in the game.

“That’s a good political shot to take,” Stevenson said.

Both candidates agreed schools had to be paid back the money the Legislature borrowed from them to balance the budget. Ruud said it was already half paid back. She also called for more school innovation and for reforming education instead of throwing money at it.

Stevenson said the state faces another projected deficit and that additional revenue had to be part of the discussion if school were going to be paid back.

“Unless you talk about revenue there’s no way to do it,” he said.

Ruud said an existing dedicated fund which was established to help pay for the Final Four and the Super Bowl should be redirected to tourism since current support levels are not good enough.

Stevenson countered that tourism jobs, with their relatively low wages, were not going to sustain the district’s economy. The region, he said, needed to grow the middle class with manufacturing jobs.

MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5860 or He may be followed at

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860