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Former senator, farmer Win Borden dies

Win Borden, a former state senator whose career saw both great success and serious setbacks, died Monday, Jan. 20, at age 70. In recent years he lived, farmed and wrote from the 1929 wood-heated farmhouse he was raised in near Merrifield.

Borden’s first win at the polls was in 1970, when the 26-year-old upset Sen. Gordon Rosenmeier of Little Falls, a true power in the Senate.

“If you wanted to get anything done in the Senate, you had to go through Rosenmeier,” former DFL state lawmaker Don Samuelson recalled.

Borden, who managed Samuelson’s successful 1968 campaign, was very bright and a strong campaigner, according to Samuelson.

It was clear from the start to Samuelson that his young protege was a natural when it came to politics.

“What I liked about him is that he showed up and he wanted to help,” Samuelson said. “It was in his blood.”

After winning re-election in 1972 and 1976 Borden surprised many by resigning to accept a leadership role with the Minnesota Association of Commerce and Industry (MACI), a forerunner of the Minnesota Chamber.

While serving MACI, Borden narrated a daily radio program heard on more than 80 Minnesota stations.

Trouble came to Borden’s life in 2004, when he was sentenced and later served one year at a minimum security federal prison in Yankton, S.D., for failing to file federal income tax returns.

After returning to Crow Wing County, Borden remained interested in DFL politics in the role of a behind-the-scenes player.

In a 2008 interview with the Brainerd Dispatch he reflected on a career in which he met such luminaries as Hubert H. Humphrey and Charles Lindbergh. He also summed up thoughts about his own political future.

“Thoroughly enjoyed it,” he said. “Never want to repeat it.”

His interest in Crow Wing County and state politics continued, however. He was an early supporter of DFLer Taylor Stevenson, when he sought a state Senate seat. Stevenson, 26, said Borden possessed both wisdom and grace. His fondest memories were of splitting wood and sharing meals at Borden’s farm house.

“I know in the last few years, when he re-established himself on the farm ... I have to believe those were happiest times of his life,” Stevenson said.

Those years were busy ones. In addition to writing books, Borden raised and sold vegetables for the Borden Road Farm Market. He also chronicled his rural life and health struggles on Facebook, attracting a large number of followers, who reveled in his imaginary conversations with an old farm stove.

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
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