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District 57 Democrats choose legislative candidates at convention, Republicans choose to wait

Senate District 57 candidate Greg Clausen, left, is pictured with House candidates Roberta Gibbons (57A) and Jeff Wilfahrt (57B).

One side of the ballot is set in next November's election for Rosemount's seats in the Minnesota legislature, but voters will have to wait a few weeks to learn who will be on the other side.

Representatives of the newly renamed Senate District 57 met Saturday to talk about candidates for this year's race. District Democrats endorsed former Rosemount High School principal Greg Clausen as their candidate for Senate and Rosemount resident Jeff Wilfahrt as their candidate for House District 57B.

Wilfahrt announced his candidacy in January, but Clausen had not spoken publicly about a run for the Senate.

Republicans, who met Saturday at Eastview High School, have chosen to consider their options further. District secretary Kevin Ecker said district leaders will hold an endorsing committee within 45 days of Saturday's convention to identify candidates.

The declared candidates for the Senate seat are Pat Hall and Judy Lindsay. The only declared candidate so far for the 57B House seat is Apple Valley resident Anna Wills, but Ecker said other candidates have expressed interest privately.

"From the speeches given on the motions, it appeared most delegates wanted time to get to know the declared (Senate) candidates better and/or give other potential candidates a chance to step forward," Ecker wrote in an email Monday. He said there was a "sizeable minority" that wanted to move forward with an endorsement for Senate, but he didn't know which candidate that group supported.

Ecker said part of the delay in choosing a candidate has to do with the recent decisions by incumbents Kurt Bills and Chris Gerlach, both Republicans, not to seek reelection. Bills announced earlier this month he plans to run for US Senate. Gerlach plans to retire from the legislature.

"We had delegates show up Saturday who were unaware of either or both vacancies," District 57 GOP chair Pat Staley wrote in an email. "To be presented with candidates they hadn't met yet made it quite a stretch to endorse, and the vote against doing so was overwhelming."

District 57 DFL chair Marcee Kain doesn't seem to have any question about the decisions made at her convention Saturday. She said she'd been talking to Clausen, her neighbor, for a couple of years about running for office.

"He has just an incredible resume of experiences," she said. "He's a bright man. He's personable and yet he's dignified. He's just a stunning candidate."

Clausen was endorsed on the second ballot over Mike Germain.

Clausen said the idea of running for office has come up more than once over the years, but when he worked as a principal, his schedule rarely allowed time for that kind of commitment. Now a federal and state program specialist for the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District, Clausen feels like he has the time to dedicate to a campaign.

Clausen said his value system and his desire to make a difference made the decision to seek office seem natural.

"I think you put those things together, and I had some encouragement from other people, I decided to take the leap."

Clausen said the fact the Senate seat will be vacant helped him decide.

In addition to education issues, Clausen has been involved over the years with the Dakota County Affordable Housing Coalition and the Dakota Woodlands homeless shelter.

Wilfahrt has been in the national eye since his son, Andrew, was killed in February of 2011 while serving in Afghanistan. A former 3M engineer who is currently self employed, Wilfahrt has become an outspoken advocate for gay rights since his son's death. Andrew was gay.