In St. Cloud, old candidates aim for new offices

Voters in the St. Cloud area will see some familiar names on the November ballot.

Four former state legislators are attempting political comebacks as candidates for local offices. Two are running for county commissioner and two are running for school board.

In the open contest for Stearns County Commissioner District 1, former DFL state Sen. Tarryl Clark is matched in a head-to-head contest with former Republican state Rep. Steve Gottwalt.

“It just seemed like a really good fit,” Gottwalt said.

Gottwalt served in the Minnesota House from 2007 to Jan. 2013, when he resigned the seat.

Clark served as a member of the Minnesota Senate from 2006 to 2010.

“I want to put my experience and perspective to the issues that matter most to people in our region,” Clark said. “It really is about partnering, bringing people together.”

Several former state legislators have made the switch to county commissioner in recent years. Dakota County has three: Joe Atkins, Chris Gerlach and Mary Liz Holberg.

Part of the appeal, Gottwalt believes, is that county government is much less partisan than state government.

“This is a nonpartisan race,” he said. “You don’t have to be labeled by one party or the other. You can actually run as yourself.”

The school board election in the St. Cloud area, District 742, also features two former DFL state representatives: Zachary Dorholt and Larry Hosch. Dorholt was elected to the Minnesota House in 2012 and served one term. Hosch was first elected in 2002 and served four terms. There are six candidates running for three open seats.

Former state Sen. Barb Goodwin had a stint on the Columbia Heights School Board after serving in the House and before running for the Senate. But the legislature-to-school board path is rare, according Kirk Schneidawind, executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Boards.

“The sequence one more traditionally sees is they move from the school board to the Legislature,” Schneidawind said.

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