Senate District 10: Wesenberg says he’ll fight for the people — and common sense
Wesenberg is a first-timer seeking to represent Senate District 10 as a Republican, facing DFL candidate Suzanne Cekalla, also a newcomer.
BRAINERD — Minnesota Senate candidate Nathan Wesenberg said he’s sick of politicians — especially those who are complacent, beholden to lobbyists or accepting of the status quo without questioning whether a better approach exists.
“I just feel like there’s a lot of change that’s happening that is maybe not going in the right direction,” Wesenberg said during an Oct. 14 interview at the Brainerd Dispatch. “ … So I started running because we need change. I’m sick of politicians just playing politics. Politicians get in there. They say they’re gonna work for you. Then they get in there and they never do the thing that they promise.”
Wesenberg is a first-timer seeking to represent Senate District 10 as a Republican, facing DFL candidate Suzanne Cekalla, also a newcomer. The district includes portions of Aitkin, Benton, Crow Wing, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs and Morrison counties. The Little Falls husband and father topped a field of three GOPers in the August primary, earning a plurality of votes with 36.8%.
Concerns about Minnesota’s education system and leaders’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic led Wesenberg to become more politically active and start a community group for discussion on topics like education and health care, he said. With a run for state Senate, Wesenberg said he wants to continue listening to his neighbors and ensure their voices are heard in a state Capitol where too many legislators have become comfortable with going with the flow. He also wants to stand up and speak the truth, even when it’s not what others want to hear.
“I want to listen to the people and do what they need to do. I’m not doing it for power or money. … I just want to listen to people and do what’s for them,” Wesenberg said. “I feel like the government has gotten so big that they just say, ‘This is how we're going to do it,’ and that isn’t the right thing. Because look at how our country’s going right now. I don’t think it’s going a great direction.”
Improving education, cutting taxes and wasteful spending, shrinking the size of government, introducing term limits for elected officials and addressing a spike in crime are all among goals of Wesenberg’s, if he were to win office. He also said he’s a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights and law enforcement.
When it comes to schools, Wesenberg said he doesn’t think dropping test scores can be solved by throwing money at the issue alone. He said elements of curriculum go beyond the scope of what schools should be teaching, while other things that should be considered fundamental get short shrift.
“We need to focus on education, not so much on, like, social issues. It’s a parent’s job to parent. It’s the school’s job to educate,” Wesenberg said. “We need to get back to math, science, reading, history, and not be as focused on making kids think that they’re less than someone else or better than someone else. Everybody’s equal. That’s the message, is we need to tell people they’re equal and treat people equally.”
He said he’s already been working with teachers and the Little Falls superintendent on issues of concern in local schools and getting things done. Although he said he couldn’t talk specifics, he noted support for not allowing males to use female restrooms and said adults should not indulge children who wish to identify as “furries” by dressing and perhaps acting as animals.
“I’m not saying there’s a big furry population, but kids see things and they do it. It’s our jobs as adults and parents and educators to say it's probably not appropriate,” he said. “ … We need to teach kids how to think and how to work hard and get them there.”
While government is necessary to provide things like security and infrastructure, Wesenberg said people know how to take care of themselves better than the government does. This goes hand in hand with giving the state’s surplus back to the taxpayers who paid in and reducing taxes overall — including eliminating the tax on Social Security benefits — plus finding the ways in which government wastes money. As a former government employee, he said he’s personally witnessed too much money spent on unnecessary things.
“We need to give this money back where we are hurting for money right now — everybody, not just Minnesota, nationally. There’s no reason we can’t stop spending money that doesn’t need to be spent,” Wesenberg said. “ … We need to help the people that need help, but not give people more than they need or let people take advantage of the situation.”
Term limits, in Wesenberg’s view, would go a long way toward solving some of the problems with the political system, allowing legislators to get lazy while collecting money from special interest groups who expect them to vote a certain way — whether it’s what’s best for the people or not. Ditching giant omnibus bills would also help the Legislature be more effective and more in line with the state Constitution, he said.
He said while he will stand up for the facts and his steadfast beliefs, he is willing to listen to those of all political stripes who have common sense solutions. In the Brainerd Dispatch Voter’s Guide, Wesenberg wrote, “This is a battle of ‘good versus evil’ — no longer ‘R versus D.’” Asked to explain how such a statement translates to a willingness to cross the partisan divide, Wesenberg said there’s negative things about both major parties and good and bad ideas cross those party lines.
“So how do we work together? Well, we say let's look at things in a common sense type of way, you know. So if I hurt your feelings by telling you the truth, I’m sorry. You know, I’m just trying to tell you the truth,” Wesenberg said.
“So it’s not about philosophy and ‘How does it make me feel?’ it’s about telling the truth. Let’s try to find that truth. So if 80% of the people I talk to feel like something is true, then I’m representing the population. Obviously, you’re representing everybody as a whole, but maybe that 20% don’t understand that they’re being misled.”
Wesenberg said the biggest difference between him and his opponent is he is working for the people of the district already.
“I’m not saying I’m going to do it. I have been doing it and I am doing it. So I’m listening to people,” he said. “ … I want to do what's right for you. … I know she (Cekalla) says she wants to do things for the people and I’m sure she does. But I’m young and I’m ready. I’m fighting for people right now.”