Senate District 10: Cekalla says divisive politics doesn’t help constituents

Cekalla is the DFL candidate in Senate District 10, facing Republican primary winner Nathan Wesenberg to represent the district that did not have a seated senator following redistricting earlier this year.

Forum - Cekalla.JPG
Senate District 10 candidate Suzanne Cekalla participates during the legislative candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters Monday, Oct. 3, 2022, in the Dryden Theatre at Central Lakes College in Brainerd.
Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch
We are part of The Trust Project.

BAXTER — Suzanne Cekalla said she doesn’t consider her politics to be solely blue or red — she falls somewhere in the middle, as a business-minded nurse and pastor who is frustrated by the negative impact of extreme partisanship.

While people who identify with either major political party can find common ground on many issues, Cekalla said those aimed at dividing Minnesota are the loudest. And many people are weary of the political fearmongering, she said.

“A lot of people were just feeling like there was no hope, like not a chance that anything could get better,” Cekalla said during an Oct. 5 interview at Caribou Coffee in Baxter. “ … They didn't like all the aggression from the world that they could see and how aggressive the certain political parties got, and they're actually afraid. … I just think if central Minnesota, if SD 10 knows that they have a senator that truly, truly cares about them, maybe it will just make our world a better place.”

Cekalla is the DFL candidate in Senate District 10, facing Republican primary winner Nathan Wesenberg to represent the district that did not have a seated senator following redistricting earlier this year. Senate District 10 includes portions of Aitkin, Benton, Crow Wing, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs and Morrison counties.

Cekalla said she grew up in Morrison County and has a wide variety of experiences, including working in health care as both a nurse and a hospital chaplain, owning a small business, helping to start the Rice Chamber of Commerce and serving a role in Tri-County Community Action as a youth employment director. She now operates a home-based business as a practitioner of healing touch and spiritual coaching.


Cekalla said she’s passionate about reproductive rights and was motivated to run for office in part because of the Supreme Court’s rollback of the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion. She said she and many she’s spoken to can hardly believe the country is now waging the same battle as 50 years earlier, and she’s concerned about other established rights — such as access to contraception — also under threat.

Gun control is another issue Cekalla would like to tackle if she were elected to the state Senate. She said she supports a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines along with stronger background checks. But she’s quick to point out she grew up around guns and her family includes dozens of hunters, who enjoy a tradition she sees as important to the culture and economy of the state.

Read more
On Tuesday, Jan. 3, Bryan Welk was sworn in as the newly elected Cass County Sheriff.
The Top 10 stories of 2022 in the Brainerd lakes area cover a wide range of events, from tragedy to hope and the past and the future.
In November, Trump-backed Lake lost the governor's race to Hobbs but refused to concede and continued making unconfirmed claims about election improprieties on her Twitter feed.
The election, strikes and the abortion debate made headlines in Minnesota this year.
The award recognized Central Lakes College for its efforts in encouraging students to register to vote.
Election officials said a total of 909 voters were processed on election day at the courthouse counter, with the majority of them voting in-person in protest to receiving a mail ballot.
$401 million race was nation’s most expensive
Because the results in the two commissioner districts fell well outside of the margin at which public funds can be spent on a recount — for county offices, it must be less than one-half of 1% — these were considered discretionary and funded by the candidates themselves.
The case has come to the Supreme Court at a time of heightened concern over U.S. election integrity in light of new voting restrictions pursued by Republican state legislatures.
Analysts say those votes likely tilted Democratic, which will require strong Election Day turnout by Walker's Republican supporters. Opinion polls have shown a narrow lead for Warnock.
For the campaign finance reporting violation, the panel imposed a fine of $50. The door hanger disclosure issue resulted in a $100 fine.
The clear message of this election was that those citizens who found a way to vote, in spite of the many efforts to restrict voting, chose democracy and a system based on the rule of law and the basic time-tested processes of American democracy.
Thankfully elections are completed for 2022, without violence or much dissention.
The count is a manual audit of paper ballots in randomly selected precincts for specific offices to determine the accuracy of the voting system prescribed by state law.
While results still need to be certified, Minnesota was just one of three states to top the 60% mark, along with Wisconsin and Maine, according to the U.S. Election Project.
In Republican House leadership elections on Tuesday, McCarthy is expected to overcome a challenge from hard-line conservative Representative Andy Biggs.
The closely fought governor's race between Lake and Democrat Katie Hobbs was one of the most significant in the general election because Arizona is a battleground state and is expected to play a pivotal role in the 2024 U.S. presidential election.
After 16 candidates competed for the five seats on this year's ballot for Brainerd School Board, some brought up the idea of a primary.
A total of 32,813 residents cast votes on or before Tuesday, Nov. 8, according to statistics provided by the Crow Wing County Elections office. Of those, nearly a quarter — 7,872 — voted by absentee or mail ballot, and 1,444 people registered to vote on Election Day.
Elections officials have gone to great pains to make sure the process works the way it’s supposed to.
In Arizona, law enforcement officials remained on high alert for potential protests, with barricades and security fencing erected around the Maricopa County elections department.
How Republicans and Democrats fared compared to two years ago.
In addition to Eichorn, Sen. Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, was elected as Senate Republican leader.
Republicans had secured at least 211 of the 218 House seats they need for a majority, Edison Research projected late on Thursday, while Democrats had won 199.
Voter turnout was down 4% in Minnesota and 6% nationwide in the Nov. 8 election when compared to the 2018 midterm.
For months, Georgians have been inundated with television ads about Walker and Warnock, and political experts say there are likely very few voters who have not made up their minds.
With control of the two legislative chambers and the governor’s office, DFL lawmakers and Gov. Tim Walz will be able to take more decisive action on policy priorities as they will no longer have to make major compromises with Senate Republicans. That could include increasing funding for education, the creation of a paid family leave program, and the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Duluth's Natalie Zeleznikar unseated Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, in House District 3B by margin of 50.01%-49.85%, according to unofficial results.
Steve Simon, who first took office in 2015, oversaw and certified Minnesota’s election in 2020, in which then-Sen. Joe Biden dashed the re-election hopes of Donald Trump by more than seven points statewide.
GOP challenger Ryan Wilson conceded the race to Blaha Wednesday afternoon.

“I grew up shooting guns, but I don’t need an AK-47 and I do not need an assault rifle and I do not need a clip that has 100 bullets in it, do I?” Cekalla said. “And we know that that one legislation could change everything.”

She said a majority of Americans, including those on both sides of the aisle, are with her in supporting stricter gun laws and women’s reproductive rights, yet politicians aren’t listening to their constituents. She pointed to a recent report analyzing results of in-depth surveys with 80,000 Americans, which found almost 150 policy positions over which majorities in both political parties agree.

“People are being held hostage by their representatives, and that’s actually what I have felt like, like I’ve been held hostage by the people who are my so-called legislators, and I plan on changing that,” Cekalla said. “I think I can work in the middle ground.”

Health care, environmental protection and education are also high on Cekalla’s list to address in the Legislature.

Her firsthand experience in hospitals showed her the dangers of delayed care, which she said is often driven by high costs and people’s inability to pay. She said something must be done to increase access to needed health care while also driving down drug prices, such as for life-saving medications like insulin.

Cekalla said reducing dependence on fossil fuels is another goal she supports, alongside a shift to greener energy sources such as solar and wind. She noted while Minnesotans were struggling to pay high prices at the gas pump this summer, oil companies raked in record profits.


“I’m ready to shift to try and make it better. Solar power is free — you just need to put the panels up. Wind power is free — you just need to put the turbine up,” Cekalla said. “It is ignorance that we’re not doing it, and it’s also control of the oil prices. If we had wind power and solar power, we wouldn’t have the gas prices that we have and that’s just a no-brainer.”

More funding for education is another idea Cekalla said she supports, adding she’d like to see free public education be available to everyone between the ages of 3 and 20 years old, including post-graduation training programs. This issue, she said, might be the most important of all, because it relates to so many others facing the state.

“A well-educated society benefits us all and provides individual economic security for people. If we can help provide individual economic security, we solve a lot of problems across the board,” Cekalla said.

The Legislature missed opportunities to move the needle on some of these policy areas when it failed to pass several bills. Among the items left on the table was a tax cut for Minnesotans, and Cekalla said she would support this again as one of the ways to use the surplus in the state’s budget. She said there’s enough surplus money to put a little toward a variety of areas that could directly help residents — especially those in rural areas, who seem to be forgotten by a majority of politicians including the governor, Cekalla said.

Increasing access to broadband internet, workforce training, low-cost child care and affordable housing, alongside tackling drug addiction, would all have a positive impact on rural residents, she said.

“We need specialized programs here in rural Minnesota … and until we have those, I just don’t see that rural Minnesota is going to get caught up with the metro,” Cekalla said. “I refuse to call it Greater Minnesota. Those people in the metro called it Greater Minnesota. It is not ‘greater’ in any other name, and it is a low-income, rural Minnesota that they’re talking about.”

Cekalla said she believes most people who live in Senate District 10 agree on ways in which government can do better for them and their families.

“I'm just hoping and praying that people will vote for hope and working together as a community, rather than going to the divisive route,” she said. “Because I hope to bring everybody together so that we can build a better community.”


CHELSEY PERKINS, community editor, may be reached at 218-855-5874 or Follow on Twitter at

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
What To Read Next
Lee and Penny Anderson's donation to the University of St. Thomas will fund a new sports arena.
February is Minnesota School Board Recognition Month.
Jan. 25, the BCA sent out a news release requesting public help after 35 overdoses in north central Minnesota since Dec. 1, 2022.
Conferred graduates for Fall 2022