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Kelly to run for 28A seat

Red Wing School Board Chairman Tim Kelly announced Friday he will seek the Republican endorsement in the House District 28A race.

"This is an opportunity to step up into a higher arena where you can make a more positive difference," he said in a phone interview with the R-E.

Kelly said his candidacy began taking shape after talking with a Republican lawmaker following a House education committee meeting in Red Wing. That talk -- fueled by Kelly's frustration with the state's school funding formula -- led to suggestions he consider running for the Legislature.

In the following weeks, House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, recruited him to pursue a campaign. The concept appealed to Kelly, who said he will make school finance reform a central issue to his campaign.

"Being on the School Board the last five years has been a very educational process," the 43-year-old said. "I've seen how mandates can be a hindrance. I think I could lend some insight with my real, hands-on experience."

Kelly's announcement is the first GOP bid in the 28A race. The Republican endorsement winner will likely face incumbent Rep. Sandy Wollschlager.

The first-term Democrat from Cannon Falls has not formally announced a re-election campaign, but said Friday she does plan to run again.

Kelly, a financial adviser and married father of four, said he will remain on the School Board. Whether he continues to lead the board -- or hand off his chairman's role -- remains to be seen.

Goodhue County Republican Chairman Howard Stenerson said Kelly's longtime involvement with the local business community and schools could help his candidacy.

"I think that he'll be a fairly well-rounded candidate," Stenerson said.

Kelly pointed to his role in recent negotiations between the Red Wing teachers union and the district as a training ground for St. Paul politics. Bargaining ended last month when an agreement was reached, bringing the nine-month process to a close.

"In the Legislature, it takes compromise to get things done," said Kelly, a member of the district's negotiating team.