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Incumbent Murdock a no-show at candidate forum

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District 10B Representative DFL challenger Pete Phillips didn't have anyone to debate at a candidate forum Thursday -- his opponent, Republican incumbent Mark Murdock, didn't show up.

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Phillips said he is used to it.

"He's batting zero for six," on showing up for campaign events in which he could go head-to-head with his opponent, Phillips said.

Phillips and his wife, Shari, have three children: Dylan 13, Madison, 11, and Max, 9.

Phillips is a small business owner who said he learned the importance of a balanced budget while serving on the Wadena City Council.

At the forum Thursday at M State in Detroit Lakes, Phillips was asked how legislators can best work with the new governor.

"Everybody hates big government -- until there's a tornado," he said. "I hate waste," but there's a place for government. You just have to roll up your sleeves and get it done -- you work together." When it comes to rural issues, Phillips said he would work with other outstate legislators.

"We're elected by rural people and we need to stick together," he said. "Wadena has seen its Local Government Aid cut in half -- it just keeps going down, down, down. We had to raise taxes every year and still cut services."

Phillips said Murdock blew the mission in the recent special session by not pushing for more emergency funding for Wadena.

"When asked how much Wadena needed, he said 'zero' instead of $6 million to $8 million for Wadena. How does that help Wadena? You have to dance with the one who brought you to the dance," Phillips said.

Asked if he would support a state-funded Vikings stadium, Phillips said no.

Phillips, 37, of Wadena has a radio technician background and works as a self-employed house painter.

He studied political science at Ashford University, is a former Wadena City Council member and an active civic leader.

Asked why voters should support him over his opponent, he replied: "I will always put the needs of this district first. I am elected by local people, not a political party, and certainly not St. Paul."

Phillips said he was very active at the state capital while on the city council, and spent a lot of time testifying and advocating to keep property taxes low. He fought hard to lower utility costs through the Municipal Electric Co. owned by the City of Wadena.

Rep. Murdock did not respond to this newspaper's request for basic biographical information.

According to the Minnesota House of Representatives website, Murdock is a first-term legislator (elected in 2008) who lives in Ottertail with his wife, Patricia, and two children. He owns a hardware store in Perham. He has bachelor degrees in history and political science from Southwest Minnesota State University.

Murdock submitted a written statement to organizers of the legislative forum, saying he could not attend because of a meeting scheduled for the same evening.

"We have a lot of work to do in the next session," he wrote. "Another large deficit, continuing problems with health care, how to find education, how to take care of our veterans who have kept us free, just to name a few.

"The most important thing we need to do is get people back to work. Right now, Minnesota is not business-friendly, and we need to change that by lowering taxes and getting the government out of the way of our business sector.

"As a small business owner, I know how hard it is to make a living on Main Street. We need to stop the migration of jobs out of state and start bringing new jobs to Minnesota."

The forum at Minnesota State in Detroit Lakes was hosted by the Detroit Lakes Area League of Women Voters and Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals group. Terri Kalil was the moderator.

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