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Aitkin County Republicans gather for constitution-themed rally

Minnesota Rep. Dale Lueck speaks during an Aitkin County Republicans Constitution-themed gathering Thursday at at the Aitkin VFW. Zach Kayser/Brainerd Dispatch1 / 3
Minnesota Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, gives a smooch to outgoing Aitkin County Republicans Chair Kari Abbott. Zach Kayser/Brainerd Dispatch2 / 3
Eighth Congressional District candidate Stewart Mills III gives the keynote speech before the close of the rally. Zach Kayser/Brainerd Dispatch 3 / 3

AITKIN—The Aitkin County Republicans on Thursday gave a platform for state and federal candidates to politick the day before early general election voting begins in Minnesota.

The group organized an event at V.F.W. Post 1727 celebrating the 229th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution, with GOP candidate speeches and a silent auction fundraiser.

After being introduced by Rep. Josh Heintzeman, R-Nisswa, Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, spoke about some of the rights enshrined in Minnesota's constitution. He highlighted the portion that reads "all political power is inherent" in the state's people.

"It's basically restating the same thing the U.S. Constitution says: that we give power to government, the government doesn't give us power," he said.

Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, talked of her work to get an amendment to the state constitution that would take away legislators' power of setting their own pay and replace it with an appointed citizen commission. She said she discovered the idea through her involvement with the National Foundation for Women Legislators, after a delegate from the state of Washington told her about it. It's a good solution to break the legislative gridlock around the issue, she said. The fear of political blowback effectively shuts down any hope of a frank discussion on legislator pay.

"We can't ever talk about it," she said. "We can't have an honest conversation, because it's the postcard in your next election that says 'You tried to raise your pay.'"

Ruud described the rules for appointing pay commission members, that were designed to help ensure not only that there wouldn't be a partisan bias on the new body, but that the legislature as a whole couldn't exert influence on it. Appointed by the governor and the state supreme court chief justice, the 16 members of the committee are split evenly between eight DFLers and eight Republicans. In order to be eligible to serve, potential appointees can't be current or former legislators or their spouses, lobbyists, legislative employees, judges, elected officials in the executive branch, or employees of the executive branch, she said.

"We tried to make it as tight as we possibly can, so that commision cannot be part of the Legislature, or be influenced by the Legislature," Ruud said. "It's a total citizen entity."

Voters have the opportunity to mark their ballots for or against the constitutional amendment in this year's general election.

Candidate for the 8th Congressional District, Stewart Mills III, served as keynote speaker. Befitting the rally's location inside a VFW hall, he prefaced his speech by asking all the veterans in the audience to stand up and be recognized.

He began his remarks with a thesis he said he heard at an event in Cass County from Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa: "I think we're losing our country and there's nowhere else left to go."

Mills summarized early American history from the Pilgrims to the American Revolution to the creation of the U.S. Constitution. Obamacare represented an unprecedented breach of liberty, he said.

"Imagine this: for the first time, the federal government is requiring us to do one of three things: to buy a product, enroll in a program, or pay a tax," he said.

Mills then turned to a constitutional right that had come up during his debate in Duluth on Monday with opponent U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan: the right to bear arms.

"The Second Amendment is not a permission slip to go hunting," Mills said. "It is an inalienable right given to us by God."

He also discussed the rights granted under the First Amendment, the free exercise of which he said was threatened by Nolan's "Restore Democracy Act," intended to counter big money in politics. Mills called the idea "the ultimate incumbent protection program."

"Congressman Nolan literally wants to limit our First Amendment right of political free speech, and restrict it to only 60 days before an election, he said."

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