Kirk Stensrud fights to take back 48A

I will be the first to admit that as I pass the numerous signs of candidates everywhere for the upcoming elections I do not know who most any of them are, and to be honest, I don’t really care to find out. As a senior in high school, I know that this apathy is common among others my age, but with many Benilde-St. Margaret’s students living in District 48––which comprises parts of Eden Prairie and Minnetonka––the race for state representative is important. Don’t get me wrong, I am interested in politics, but with all the different levels and different districts it can be hard to pay attention.

The current Representative, Democrat Yvonne Selcer, elected in 2012, is running again this year and has a familiar challenger running against her, Kirk Stensrud. Elected in 2010, Stensrud served one term in the Minnesota House before a close loss––202 votes––to Selcer in 2012.

Between Stensrud and Selcer, there are obvious differences in the political decision they make. “The most fundamental difference between me and my opponent as I see it, is that I believe that the bigger the government gets the smaller the citizens,” Stensrud said.

Stensrud believes that students eligible to vote should vote for him because of his dedication to improve our state’s economy and businesses. “They should want a state with a balance of power and not one party doing everything. We also need places for college graduates to land and have some meaningful employment, and I am absolutely dedicated for that kind of legislature,” Stensrud said.

Growing up in Bloomington, but currently living in Eden Prairie, where he has lived for 27 years, Stensrud believes that he knows about the many needs the people in his district care about in the upcoming November election. “You are kind of a product of your upbringing, and the things you were taught at school,” Stensrud said.

A member of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Stensrud believes his faith has shaped him into the person he is today. “As one’s faith is who you are and how you think about things it is reflected in my political beliefs,” Stensrud said.

Similarly, Stensrud’s political views are affected by the experiences he has had in the corporate world. “For me more of my political views come from my work experience, and wanting more value from our government,” Stensrud said.

Stensrud’s time in the corporate world has been an essential part of his life. “I was in medical sales when I graduated from college––that got me into every nursing home around town. I have been selling or educating, and been in all the hospitals and home care agencies,” Stensrud said. “I have done a lot of work that way and mostly in a sales perspective or a sales education.”

In 2002, Stensrud opened a franchise of Fish Window Cleaning, which he still owns today. “I was traveling four days a week, and I thought wouldn’t it be nice to sleep at my own house and be with my kids,” Stensrud said, “so, I decided to settle down and start my own business.”

Through his work with Fish Window Cleaning, Stensrud learned that following all the business rules becomes difficult, demonstrating to him that there is a lot more to starting a business than just wanting to make money, including insurance and the paperwork. “We clean store fronts, but knowing how does one become a company, how to file the paperwork, become a corporate entity, find customers and market to them, hire employees, and get them set up in human resources is much more work,” Stensrud said.

Entering the political life after his involvement in the business world, Stensrud finds that his past experience is one of the main reasons he is passionate about politics. “When you start paying taxes and when you start a small business, you find out that it is a lot of work and there are a lot of things you have to do just to have a company here in Minnesota,” Stensrud said. “I started to notice the business climate and how Minnesota works to attract employers and we keep them and how we compete against other states.”

When one party runs the whole show, you don’t have a lot of discussion to pass that type of spending increase. I really believe a balance of power is good because then you have to fight for what is right and your ideas and have a good discussion.

— Kirk Stensrud

After being voted out of office in 2013, Stensrud quickly returned his attention to his small business in order to make sure everything was running smoothly. It is hard to run a business while in office, but Stensrud made sure to work hard at being more involved once back. “It is a sacrifice to run for office. I had more time out meeting the customers and making sure everything gets done and growing the business,” Stensrud said.

A major concern for Stensrud, who wants to ensure that people from Minnesota continue to want to stay long into the future, are the high taxes imposed on citizens of the state. “If people move out of Minnesota, we will not receive that income tax; they won’t be buying stuff here anymore, so we lose their purchases. There is a cascade effect from people moving, and I think that over the last few years we are starting to see that impact,” Stensrud said.

Stensrud was in office from 2011-2013 before current representative Yvonne Selcer won the seat in 2012, when his main goal was to prioritize spending and deal with the $6 billion deficit during this time. “The easy answer is to raise taxes. For example, you want sustainable health care at rates that people can afford and a safety net for those who are unable to provide this for themselves, but you can’t have a program that is growing at double digit growth year after year exponentially and then have to tax at 60% of everyone’s income to pay for it,” Stensrud said.

However, Stensrud was unable to secure a second term in office in the 2012 election, something he contributes to the national trend in that election cycle. “National elections play a huge part in the turnout in local elections,” Stensrud said. “There was an overwhelming Obama win, and I think that was probably number the number one reason a lost.”

In order to secure a win this year, Stensrud believes that it will take a lot of work. Knocking on the doors of almost every neighborhood in his district multiple times, Stensrud believes meeting people in person could help him win. “Some people are always home, and some are never home. I think that the House election is one of the only ones that lets you do this. You can actually meet people. If you are a state senator, you can maybe get through the streets once,” Stensrud said.

With a recent tax bill passed by the Democrats in the last election being a key focus for conservatives, many on the right, Stensrud included, are calling for a balance of power. “I see the direction of the state right now as one-sided control,” Stensrud said, “when one party runs the whole show, you don’t have a lot of discussion to pass that type of spending increase. I really believe a balance of power is good because then you have to fight for what is right and your ideas and have a good discussion.”

Stensrud believes that there are different solutions to solving increased spending and taxes. “I would not have done the double digit growth in spending and would have looked for some efficiencies and savings instead,” Stensrud said.

The small business climate in Minnesota has been a driving economic force, but Stensrud sees problems with the current state. “There is limited expansion in our state for existing corporations. If we lower the taxes a little bit, you can get greater production overall and get greater tax revenue. It helps boost economy with more people working and more widgets getting sold,” Stensrud said.

Kirk Stensrud, a small business owner and active community member, looks to serve the people of 48A once again.
Courtesy of Friends For Kirk Stensrud
Kirk Stensrud, a small business owner and active community member, looks to serve the people of 48A once again.

When it comes to education and schools, keeping power within the local school boards instead of a larger government is a goal of Stensrud. “We have three great school districts in 48A, so everybody wants to support their schools, and we need to do that, and we need to make strong funding for that,” Stensrud said.

College affordability is always a key voting issue for youth. In the past session, Democrats worked to freeze tuition at the University of Minnesota for two years, but Stensrud sees this as a solution to the problem. “It is insane what you will be asked to pay for college. You have to look at different reasons on why it happens, and we have to look at the policies we are making. I don’t believe the solution is having the government throw more money into it because that is just easy money for student loans, and then students will graduate in debt,” Stensrud said.

MNSure, or the state’s healthcare exchange, has been a focus for many throughout the current election cycle, including Stensrud, who believes the program needs to be altered. “I don’t want one approach from Washington telling us how to do health care because maybe we should be telling you how to do health care because we are good at it. We need more options, more choices, more market influences, and we don’t want to narrow and limit the focus,” Stensrud said.

Many students want to get involved in the political world, and Stensrud believes that students in order to be educated, need to work to learn more about politics. Participation in politics takes on many forms, and getting involved only means a better understanding of the politics that will affect your life now or in the future. “Dig in somewhere. Find a local campaign to understand what that is like. You need to pay attention, read more than just newspaper and listen to more than one radio station, get different perspectives, and study economics,” Stensrud said.