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Zellers visits Perham

Kurt Zellers, GOP gover-nor candidate, and his lieutenant governor run-ning mate, Dean Simp-son, held a meet and greet in Perham before the Turtle Fest parade on June 20. Elizabeth Huwe/FOCUS

Gubernatorial candidate Kurt Zellers visited Perham for a meet and greet on June 20, along with his lieutenant governor running mate, Dean Simpson of Perham.

Zellers, a resident of Maple Grove, Minn., grew up on his family’s crop farm near Devils Lake, N.D. He graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1993 and has worked in public relations over the past 20 years.

He was elected to be the House Minority Leader in the 2009-2010 legislative session, as well as the 57th Speaker of the House in the 2011-2012 session.

“I’m running because I want a better future for all Minnesotans,” Zellers told the Focus before meeting with constituents. “I think, right now, what we’re seeing is we’re doing OK… but we’re not an OK country. We’re a country and a state that prides ourselves in excellence – we’re the best in the world. But we’re seeing that loss of potential.”

“I’m the one candidate in the race who has sat across the table from Mark Dayton and actually balanced the budget without raising taxes,” Zellers said of his experience in the Legislature. “The other candidates have to tell you ‘what I would do if I got in,’ or, ‘here’s what I would propose.’”

In 2011, during Zellers’ term as speaker, the state government went into a 20-day partial shutdown when efforts to negotiate a budget deal between the Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton failed. However, Zellers has chosen to emphasize his role in addressing economic issues and authoring legislation that requires life-sentences for violent sex offenders.

“Rural economic development is real important,” Zellers said of his motivation in choosing Simpson as his partner. “I come from a background that understands what it means to have economic development in Minnesota. But Dean has actually done the job. I think, if you’re going to have a ticket that’s going to represent all Minnesotans, you have to have that balance.”

Zellers said he does not have “a vision” for his campaign.

“You’ve got a grocer and a farm kid – we’ve got a plan,” he said.

 The plan is to bring that potential back in all sectors, such as education, manufacturing and agriculture.

To do this, Zellers said he plans to “bring the work-force back,” emphasize education and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) schools and “we just need a darn good salesperson for Minnesota.”

Zellers will face three other candidates in a primary election on Tuesday, Aug. 12: Jeff Johnson, the Minnesota Republican Party’s endorsed candidate, as well as Scott Honour and Marty Seifert.

The winner of the August vote will face Mark Dayton in the November general election.