How Republicans in the Minnesota Senate collaborated or contended with DFLers in St. Paul during the coronavirus pandemic looks to be a common focal point during upcoming primary battles on Aug. 11.
Senate District 10, currently occupied by state Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, is one such case. Ruud, 68, is gunning for her fourth term in office — third consecutive — with a candidacy grounded in decades of service to central Minnesota and what she’s characterized as tried-and-true, real conservative bonafides.
Her challenger, Shaun Christian Hansen, 38, described himself as something of a nonpolitical everyman, not interested in engaging in political mudslinging, but in touch with the concerns, aspirations and livelihoods of people in District 10. He said he wasn’t all that politically conscious until the advent of 2020 — a year, he said, when small businesses and communities across Minnesota have been decimated by COVID-19 lockdowns implemented by Gov. Tim Walz.
Voters in District 10 — which primarily encompasses Crow Wing and Aitkin counties — will have an opportunity to choose their Republican voice during the primary on Tuesday, Aug. 11, in anticipation of the upcoming general election on Nov. 3. Historically, this has been a Republican stronghold in recent years, with Ruud handily winning over DFL candidates Tiffany Stenglein by a margin of 64.39% over 35.61% in 2016, and Taylor Stevenson by 54% to 46% in 2012.
Ruud is a lifelong Minnesotan and a resident of Breezy Point for over 30 years, with decades of experience as a real estate agent, wife to husband Dick, mother to five children, grandmother to 18 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Her political career saw stints as the former state senator of District 4, serving 2002-06, after first being elected Breezy Point mayor in 2000. She lost her senate seat to DFLer Mary Olson in 2006.
Subsequently, she pursued the nomination, and was elected to, District 10 in 2012, a political comeback that highlighted her commitment to reduced taxation, anti-abortion causes and Second Amendment rights, but also garnered some criticism for her willingness to buck Republican orthodoxy on issues of environmental protections. Ruud currently serves as vice-chair of the Minnesota Senate’s Environmental and Natural Resources Finance Committee.
In an interview, Thursday, July 30, Ruud pointed to her track record in various levels of government and positioned herself as a proven champion of conservative ideals. She’d like another opportunity to go back to St. Paul, she said, to continue promoting those ideals and see a number of bills she’s written pass the finish line.
“I think I bring a lot to the table in that and there’s a lot of things that I have done for our community,” Ruud said. “We’re recovering from COVID-19 and what's happened to our businesses. I work very closely with community leaders and the Chamber of Commerce. We had weekly meetings talking about what we can do to help our community through this and so I'd like to be part of that recovery.”
Ruud said issues of focus include expanding and improving rural broadband, senior care in the district with the highest median age among residents, as well as her long-standing promotions of small business development, Second Amendment rights protections and defense of the sanctity of life, from conception to death. She noted she sports a distinguished career in politics with numerous awards for working with various organizations, as well as endorsements from the Minnesota Republican Party and Congressman Pete Stauber, R-Duluth.
In terms of criticism that GOP state senators didn’t challenge Walz’s emergency powers enough on COVID-19 issues like masks, business closures and small business relief, Ruud was dismissive.
“I think it shows a total lack of knowledge of the legislative process,” Ruud said. “The Senate has voted routinely to take away the governor's powers, but the House has not and we have no ability to take away his powers. … There's not currently a mechanism to take away his powers. And so people are frustrated that we have not been able to do that.”
Shaun Christian Hansen
A resident of Nisswa, Hansen is a roofing contractor who first came to central Minnesota 10 years ago after living in Monticello. He’s married to Janelle, a hospice nurse, and is the father to two children, William and Abbey, who both attend Brainerd Public Schools. He’s also active in youth sports and youth education activities.
While he said he wasn’t typically politically driven, 2020 was a watershed moment when state officials foisted what he believed was an unconstitutional lockdown on Minnesota communities, ultimately hurting the prospects of businesses, families and children.
Banking on a slogan “No Lockdowns, Now or Ever,” Hansen has built his candidacy on a bid to push legislation that would require a three-fifths majority approval on a weekly basis in both the House and Senate for a sitting governor to be granted emergency powers. Currently, a sitting governor can be granted emergency powers by simple majority approval in both the Minnesota House and Senate once every 30 days.
“I just work with people all day long. I know what people in this area want. I deal with people in this area, that's where my sales are,” said Hansen, who described himself as a limited-government conservative. “I just want to stand up for our kids and end this shutdown. It's not OK to do what they’re doing to our kids. That's the main reason that got me in.”
Hansen criticized what he says is bad science on the part of state lawmakers, stating Minnesota should have only quarantined the elderly and vulnerable, not healthy and younger residents of the state. In addition, Hansen said he would fight against unnecessary business regulations that hamper economies across Minnesota and be an anti-abortion voice and a pro-Second Amendment voice in the Minnesota Senate.