GOP hopeful visits city in quest to defeat Franken
WORTHINGTON — On Saturday afternoon, Chris Dahlberg staked out a table in the corner of the dining room at the Ground Round, put up his sign, placed his campaign literature on the table and made himself available to talk about the issues.
The turnout for the Worthington stop of his “Blizzard Tour” wasn’t what he hoped for, but Dahlberg was just happy to be there, considering he started the day with a flat tire at the hotel in Mankato and consequently missed his first “meet and greet” of the day in New Ulm.
Dahlberg is one of multiple Republican contenders vying for the opportunity to try and unseat Sen. Al Franken in the November election. A lawyer from Duluth, he currently serves as a St. Louis County Commissioner and as a Duluth Seaway Port Authority Commissioner. Last year he completed a 25-year stint in the Army Reserve, which included a tour of duty in Iraq.
“I’m well known up in my neck of the woods. I need to get known across the state,” he explained about why he was taking his campaign message to points as distant as Worthington.
The theme for Dahlberg’s campaign is “Let’s get back to front porch leadership.”
“We need to get government back to the people,” he said. “I feel like too much power is concentrated in Washington, D.C., and when that happens, you don’t have effective government.”
“We sent $10 to Washington, and they send $7 back to Worthington and keep $3 for themselves, and then they tell Worthington how to spend that $7. It doesn’t make for good government.”
While he talked about the country’s $17 trillion debt and the “absolute failure” of the Affordable Health Care Act, Dahlberg’s reason for running — young daughter Maija — ate lunch and worked on her activity placemat at a nearby seat. Dahlberg said he wants to get the country in better shape so by the time she graduates from high school, she isn’t saddled with an unsurmountable debt and government overregulation.
Dahlberg feels that while Franken has taken his job in Washington seriously, he has been too quiet on the issues that really matter to his constituents.
“My most glaring issue with Franken is the affordable care act,” he said. “…Our middle class is really suffering. Health care costs are going through the roof, and the Affordable Care Act really doesn’t address it.”
The first big test for Dahlberg’s candidacy comes during the state caucuses Tuesday night, when his name will be on the straw poll ballot with the other declared contenders. He encourages people to put his name on the ballot because he comes from outstate Minnesota and understands the issues important to people outside the metro area.
“I think the Republicans are feeling out who the candidates are,” he said. “I’ve been involved in the Republican Party since I was 16 and was a delegate at age 18. They want to know, philosophically, does he match our beliefs? And there’s electability… Neither party can win if they just get their party base. You need to get the independent vote, too.”
With his military background, Dahlberg said he brings unique insight into matters of national security and the war on terrorism. But most of all, Dahlberg said people should support him during the caucuses because he has the best shot at beating Franken in November.
“I’m not the traditional candidate out of the metro,” he said, “but this could be the year we need someone nontraditional.”
Dahlberg encouraged people to check out his website, dahlbergnow.com. For his “Blizzard Tour,” he dons a customized old-fashioned winter cap with ear flaps — it says “Blizzard Tour” on the front and “Uffda” on the back — which was placed on the table Saturday afternoon.
“It has kind of a tongue-in-cheek message, but it’s serious,” he explained. “Its earflaps block out the people who say we can’t do anything, and that’s where we’re in dire straits. People need to get involved — it’s their government.”
The Republican candidate for the senate seat will ultimately be decided at the state convention in Rochester at the end of May. Dahlberg hopes he gets the chance to be that candidate.
“I have said I will abide by (the outcome of) the caucuses,” he noted. “I will honor the endorsement.”
Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers may be reached at 376-7327.