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Lt. Governor candidate visits Perham

Bill Kuisle, the lieutenant governor running mate of GOP-endorsed gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson. Elizabeth Huwe/FOCUS

In the flurry of activity leading up to the Republican primary election on Tuesday, August 12, Bill Kuisle recently stopped in Perham during his travels around the state.

Kuisle is the second half of gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson’s party-endorsed ticket.

Johnson’s campaign first contacted Kuisle on April 1, to see if he was interested in joining the ticket.

Did he think it was an April Fool’s joke?

“Just about,” he said. “It’s like, you’ve got to be kidding me. I’ve been out 10 years, what do I bring to the ticket?”

Kuisle’s state political career began when he was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 1996, where he served until 2005. He served on committees for budgets, transportation and taxes during that time.

“I would always bring that balance in that I would stand up for greater Minnesota,” Kuisle said. “I’m not bragging, it’s just he (the Speaker of the House) trusted me to do that – to make sure that whoever was at the table, somebody would speak up and not just sit there on their hands. Jeff remembered that.”

As he has traveled around the state, Kuisle said he’s noticed that areas seem to have different concerns on their mind. In some areas, there aren’t enough jobs. In others, such as Perham, there aren’t enough workers to fill all of the openings.

“It seems like we have too many people coming out of college now with a degree that is not marketable,” Kuisle said of working with the state’s Department of Employment and Economic Development, as well as the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, to ensure students and prospective employees are getting training that will be useful in the future. “That’s one of the things that we hope to accomplish,” he said.

Business climate, especially around border communities and the metro area, is another focus of the campaign, Kuisle said.

“It’s always nice to have somebody else pay your taxes, but when you start taxing that upper income bracket and they can invest elsewhere, you’ve got to find a reason to get them back,” said Kuisle. “Let’s make it so they (businesses) are not worried about what’s going to happen a year or two down the road.”

When it comes to specific plans for how to achieve their goals, Kuisle said a lot of it is “a work in progress.”

“It varies so much that it’s hard to get your hands around it right away,” Kuisle said. “We’re in the process of gathering information. We kind of know, as a vision, where we want the state to go.”

As the campaign progresses, their plans will become more concrete.

Farming and rural concerns remain a large portion of Kuisle’s life. Although he sold his dairy herd upon entering the Legislature, Kuisle still raises Holstein feeder steers, corn and soybeans. His wife, Lisa, is a regional educator with the University of Minnesota Extension Office.

Kuisle said he and Johnson plan to return to the Perham area at least one more time before the primary election.