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Zellers: Minnesota's competitiveness vital

Governor hopeful Kurt Zellers has a lot in common with many Minnesotans, he said during a stop in Red Wing Friday.

“I’m an average middle-class Minnesotan, and I think that’s what a lot of people are looking for in their next governor,” he said. “Minnesotans want someone that’s a lot like them in daily life.”

The former speaker of the House and state representative touted his legislative experience and background, but said he also has gone through and understands many issues facing typical Minnesotans, such as unemployment.

Zellers, who is up against fellow Republicans Scott Honour, GOP-endorsed Jeff Johnson and Marty Seifert on Tuesday in the primary election, grew up on a family farm in Devils Lake, North Dakota, and currently lives in Maple Grove. He is running with lieutenant governor candidate Dean Simpson.

The most critical issue of the campaign for Zellers is Minnesota’s ability to be competitive in the national and global economy, he said. 

Part of improving that would mean trimming regulations and making the process smoother for new and expanding businesses, he said. He also would focus on workforce training and opening doors to other markets for Minnesota goods.

Zellers said he is a big supporter of STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — programs and education, saying the workforce here should be ready for the jobs of the future.

“If you want to be a player, if you want to excel in the new economy, that’s where it’s going to be,” he said.

He said Minnesota also needs to share and market its resources globally, and the governor’s office should promote that.

“We have phenomenal farmers and manufacturers here,” Zellers said. “We’ve got to sell more of our product to the world.”

On issues such as silica sand mining, similar principles apply, Zellers said.

“I don’t think we should do anything that would in any way limit a Minnesota businesswoman or man and their ability to sell a product and be a part of a booming economic activity,” he said. “It goes back to the competitiveness. You want to limit sand for sand fracking? Minnesota’s uncompetitive now. They will get sand from someplace else.”

Zellers said taxes also are key and noted he is opposed to a sales tax on clothing or adding taxes to services.

Zellers touched on a number of other topics, such as the need to address infrastructure issues throughout the state.

He said a third of the state’s public works borrowing bill should go toward road work and also said he supports road and bridge funding over projects such as rail lines.

Zellers said overall it’s also important to address funding equity for rural Minnesota.

He also said he would push the federal government to find a nuclear waste storage solution.

Working together

While Zellers is aiming to win out against his fellow Republicans and ultimately Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton, he also said he knows how to work with lawmakers across the aisle.

He said he has successfully worked on bipartisan legislation and has maintained relationships with leaders and lawmakers in both parties.

“I have those working relationships and always kept it respectful,” Zellers said. “I think actions and those past relationships that I have not only built but fostered would allow me to not only work with Democrats but to find a common ground with them.”

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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