Residents of Minnesota Senate District 32 – including those residing in Wyoming – will have a say in who the Republican candidate is in the general election when they go to their primary polls Aug. 9. Sean Nienow, the incumbent senator in this district, was challenged this year by financial services industry veteran Mark Koran. Koran won the endorsement of the local GOP over Nienow, who has faced flak over the last couple of years after declaring bankruptcy following the nonpayment of a small business loan. However, Nienow decided to file for re-election. Both men answered questions from ECM Publishers to help voters get to know them better.
1. Tell us about yourself and why you feel you are qualified to serve as state senator.
KORAN: My wife, Cindy, and I moved from St. Paul to our current home in Lent Township, Chisago County, in 2007. We have been happily married for 33 years, raised three boys and now have three granddaughters with another on the way.
I’m not new to the specific concerns of the residents of Senate District 32. After making the move from St. Paul, I became a key leader in solving significant issues affecting Lent Township and Chisago County. As an active member of the Lent Township Planning Commission, I work to preserve the rights of land owners, advocate for economic development, and fight to maintain the safe and clean lifestyle that the residents of Senate District 32 have come to enjoy.
Our hard-working families and businesses need a leader who understands that government has a role in our lives, but it should operate at the most efficient level, using our hard-earned tax dollars wisely, focusing on our needs, not wants. Our level of taxation and regulation stifles job growth and continually encroaches on our private lives.
I’m running with the endorsement of the Republican Party. My upbringing in the metro area and my rural living for the for the last nine years, combined with my extensive work experience in both the public and private sectors makes me highly qualified to represent District 32 at the Capitol. Additionally, my work at the Minnesota Department of Revenue gave me the experience to fully understand how government works. This position also allowed me to work with the legislature, responding to its requests, as well as forming legislation, providing me a solid working knowledge of the law-making process.
NIENOW: I’ve lived my entire life here, growing up in Stacy and then living in Isanti County after I married my wife in 1989. I’ve served as senator in this area for the last six years and one other term in the early 2000s. I’ve lived in Isanti and Chisago counties all my life and watched our area change. As a state senator, I’ve dealt with the issues we face, the challenges we have, and the projects we’ve needed done.
I am the only candidate who has spent his entire life here. I am the only candidate that has had to face, and been able to help with, our challenges in both Isanti and Chisago county. The knowledge and skills I’ve attained by living here and serving here are invaluable. The skills, knowledge and personal relationships I’ve attained by serving in the Legislature cannot be easily replaced. To send in someone else with no legislative experience, who’s lived in the area only in recent years and has essentially no relationship with Senate colleagues would be a tremendous loss for our area and greatly diminish our ability to have effective representation in St. Paul.
I have a proven record of effective representation, willingness to meet with constituents and local leaders, and a proven record of supporting the values of our community. I’ve been a strong proponent of demanding high quality education, equitable funding for our local schools, focusing on building and fixing roads and bridges, protecting our constitutional rights, slowing down government expansion and holding the line of government tax and spending. I’ve proven myself in all these areas. If I am honored again to represent this area, you know that you’ll get a solid legislator with a proven willingness to be available to constituents and a solid conservative voting record.
2. If elected, what would be your top priorities as senator for District 32?
KORAN: I believe our top priorities should be to allow our hard-working families to retain as much of their hard-earned income as possible. At the end of the day, citizens want to know that those who represent them understand what it takes to earn a paycheck. I am currently employed in the private sector and will maintain a position during my time in the Legislature because winning an election isn’t enough to justify earning a paycheck for four years. There are already too many legislators who do not retain outside employment, removing them from the reality of what families and businesses endure on a daily basis.
My key priorities are removing government from the center of our health care system and providing citizens with affordable coverage choices, practicing fiscal restraint and eliminating overbearing government regulations on businesses, improving our infrastructure and focusing on roads and bridges (lanes before trains!) and promoting school choice initiatives that give parents control over their children’s education.
With these priorities and my experience, we can begin to address the how, what, when and who should deliver services we deem necessary from our government.
It would be an honor to serve Senate District 32 for our citizens. Please cast your vote for me on Aug. 9.
NIENOW: Next year will be a budgeting year for the state. We need to focus on essential functions of government like public safety, transportation infrastructure and education. With the right priorities, it would be possible to have an effective government which meets basic needs without any tax increase on Minnesota families. In fact, we’d be able to provide hard-working families with tax cuts.
We demonstrated this last legislative session. Gov. Dayton was demanding tax increases, but House and Senate Republicans showed that we can get the essentials done without tax increases. An example is the two bills that Gov. Dayton vetoed this year: the tax bill and transportation bill. In the transportation bill, I was able to help coordinate the inclusion of funding to continue the expansion of Highway 95 in downtown Cambridge into four lanes. Doing this now would actually save a lot of money versus waiting for future years, and it’s desperately needed. We still were able to pass a tax relief package to lower taxes on Minnesotans.
As the Senate Republican lead for K-12 education, next year I would like to once again focus on promoting high quality education and equity for our local schools. There are some schools in the metro with graduation rates so low that nearly one in two students doesn’t graduate in four years. We all pay a price when that is allowed. Many don’t know our local schools are nearly at the bottom of the list for per pupil funding, getting about half as much of some metro schools. I want to continue to work on fixing that to help our schools and help Minnesota.
We need to lower taxes on hard-working families, focus on basic government functions, and demand high quality education. That doesn’t require growing the budget. It requires proven leaders.
– Answers compiled by Rachel Kytonen