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Meet the Candidates Running for the Senate District 11 Seat

The special election to fill the Minnesota Senate District 11 seat is being described as a "blink and you'll miss it campaign." With less than 12 days until the January 22 primary election and less than 26 days until the February 5 special election, there is not much time for candidates to meet with voters to discuss their platform.

GOP - Jason Rarick

Jason Rarick is a third term State Representative in Minnesota's House. There, he was the chief author of bills to install term limits and legalize aerial fireworks which are issues he says he will take with him to the Senate.

Rep. Rarick wants to free up some of the State's bond money to help pay for reliable broadband internet for the district. He believes that fiber optic cable for internet should be included as infrastructure just like road, bridges, and buildings.

Rarick would also oppose an increase in Minnesota's gas tax. He believes that the State can use a part of the surplus to fund road construction and transportation.

Legal Marijuana Now - John "Sparky" Birrenbach

John "Sparky" Birrenbach is a political activist, businessman, and former congressional and presidential candidate.

If elected, Sparky plans to sponsor legislation that will reduce the "prescription and illegal opiate crisis." He will do this by working to improve the Minnesota Prescription Monitoring Program (MNPMP) by allowing it to flag and notify pharmacies of patients with a history of abuse. He also is a proponent of the legalization of cannabis for those above the age of 21.

He also supports the closing of tax loopholes that allow the wealthy to pay proportionately lower taxes than those in lower income brackets.

DFL - Michelle Lee

Michelle Lee is a former reporter and news anchor in the Northland. She believes that her 30-year career as a journalist and as a long time resident has given her the tools she needs to be the voice of District 11.

Lee believes that Minnesota does not have a lack of jobs but a lack of trained workers. She supports free tuition for trade schools and community colleges so the state can grow a healthy and educated workforce because she is a product of a vocational school.

Lee is a proponent of single-payer healthcare. She wants Minnesota to lead the nation by expanding MinnesotaCare for all people.

DFL - Stu Lourey

Stu Lourey cut his political teeth first by being dragged to local school board and county board meetings as a kid and then as a field representative for former Senator Al Franken. He later worked for Franken and Senator Tina Smith in Washington DC as a legislative aide.

Lourey wants to work to make sure rural school districts get fair funding from the state so that no student loses out on education opportunities. During his time in Washington, he works with Smith and Franken to push for school-based mental health support.

Stu supports a potential increase in Minnesota's gas tax if it does not harm residents in the northern part of the state.

Below is a playlist of interviews WCMP conducted with each candidate between January 8 and January 9.

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