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Parade of GOP Senate candidates continues

Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, on Friday, was the latest in a succession of Republican U.S. Senate candidates who have brought their campaign to the Brainerd area as the Feb. 4 party caucuses draw near.

The veteran state lawmaker spoke before a group of about 30 interested persons at the Brainerd Perkins restaurant Friday night and emphasized her determination to unseat the incumbent, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.

“This is the year we are going to remove Al Franken from office,” she told the crowd. “He has to be removed from office. He has never voted in the best interests of Minnesota. He doesn’t care about us.”

Instead, Ortman said, Franken voted to raise the debt ceiling in October of 2013 and was silent or possibly consenting when it came to National Security Administration (NSA) spying on our telephones.

Ortman said Minnesota needs to elect a leader who can balance the budget without raising taxes.

“We will grow the economy when we keep more of our hard-earned income,” she said.

Speaking to a reporter later, she said she didn’t know how she would have voted on the October 2013 vote in which the debt ceiling was raised. She said Minnesota needed a very different voice to change the conversation and stand up for principles and budget reforms. She said she would advocate for incentives for federal agencies that save tax dollars rather than adhere to a “use it or lose it” budget.

Discussing the NSA, Ortman also called for a public conversation about balancing citizens’ private rights and protecting the nation from terrorists.

She said she’s skeptical of Iran and that nation’s recent pledges to rein in its nuclear programs. Her skepticism, she said, stems from the country’s actions in the past and its threats against Israel.

Asked what she would emphasize in her campaign for the Republican endorsement for the U.S. Senate, she said it would be her strong respect for the voters, her grassroots campaign and the need for a formidable force in the U.S. Senate race.

Ortman said she was very worried about the U.S. economy and the nation’s debt, which she said was a huge anchor.

“We need government to encourage competition,” she said. “I don’t think we can afford much more of a national debt.”

She also said she has not yet decided whether she would abide by the decision of the Republican endorsing convention.

Other GOP candidates for the U.S. Senate who spoke recently with Brainerd area Republicans included Duluth attorney and St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg and Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka.

Ortman was introduced at the meet-and-greet session as the state’s next U.S. senator by Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point. The District 10 senator said she’s been friends with Ortman since they were freshmen legislators.

“She’s right on the issues,” Ruud said. “She’s right for the state of Minnesota.”

First elected to the Legislature in 2002, Ortman is an attorney. She and her husband Ray, who accompanied her to Brainerd, have four children ages 22, 21, 19 and 15. Her oldest child, Pfc. Raymond Ortman, is training as a cryptic linguist in Chinese. Ortman is the ranking minority member on the Tax Committee. She previously served as deputy majority leader in 2012; chair of the Senate Tax Committee in 2011-2012; and as a Carver County commissioner.

According to her biography on a state Senate website she has won eight straight elections, receiving nearly 65 percent of the vote in Senate District 47 in 2012.

MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at 855-5860 or Follow on Twitter 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