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Special ed teacher seeks GOP nod for governor

By Peter Passi

Forum News Service

HIBBING, Minn. -- Rob Farnsworth, a 35-year-old special education teacher from Hibbing, announced Wednesday that he will seek office as Minnesota's next governor. He said he intends to seek the GOP endorsement.

This will be Farnsworth's second run for political office. In 2010, he also sought his party's endorsement to run against Congressman Jim Oberstar, but Farnsworth stepped aside when Chip Cravaack received the Republican nod instead.

Farnsworth, the son of a miner, described Cravaack as a model. He said that, like Cravaack, he too would bring a strong union background to the race. Farnsworth has been a union member for 15 years and previously served as a union local president while working as an educator for the Department of Corrections.

"I admire what Chip Cravaack was able to do in the 8th District. As a former union member, he was able to bring conservative union members into the Republican coalition, and this propelled him to victory in 2010. I am the only announced candidate that brings these strengths to the campaign," he said.

"There are 350,000 union members in Minnesota, and too many in the Republican Party have pretty much written them off," Farnsworth said.

He contends the party should stop thinking of labor in adversarial terms and should instead stress common goals. "Union members should understand that Republicans want to create jobs, and that's good for unions."

Farnsworth said he will spend the coming days in a booth at the Minnesota State Fair, meeting people and listening to their concerns.

He identified three key issues as motivators for his campaign, starting with education.

"As educators, we're being told to teach 100 percent of our students as though they were going to go to a four-year college, when in fact only 71 percent of them will seek a post-high school degree," Farnsworth said. He calls for school-to-work programs to help more young people find gainful employment after high school graduation.

Farnsworth said he also will advocate for more investment in the state's roads and bridges.

"Transportation has been shortchanged in Minnesota for too long and to such an extent that people today need to worry about a bridge collapsing on their way home from work," he said.

Farnsworth also stressed the need for improved public safety.

"When I look at the debate over what to do with all the sex offenders in St. Peter, given their tendency to reoffend and harm children or women, I wonder: Why would we ever consider letting them out of prison?" he said.

Farnsworth also called for increased school security. He noted that armed guards are routinely used to protect valuable property and financial institutions.

"Why wouldn't we offer the same degree of protection in our schools, when kids are far more precious than money?" he asked

Farnsworth earned an undergraduate degree in history from the University of St. Thomas and a master's degree in special education from Minnesota State University in Mankato.