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Sen. Pederson says his ‘open approach’ a strength in GOP contest to replace Bachmann

The district’s newest entrant in the race has to cover a lot of ground to get the Republican endorsement — geographically and politically.

John Pederson

State Sen. John Pederson, the 6th Congressional District’s newest entrant in the race to replace Michele Bachmann, will have to cover a lot of ground to get the Republican endorsement — geographically and politically.

Pederson has a reputation as a solid conservative with a strong record on fiscal and labor issues, but constituents in his St. Cloud district are not as ideologically alike as those in Wright and Anoka counties, home of the two other Republican candidates, Tom Emmer and Rhonda Sivarajah, respectively.

Pederson sees that as his strength.

“I have a different approach,” he said. “My approach of serving Senate District 14 is one of an open-door policy — giving a chance for people to be heard and make their arguments.  This is an approach that the 6th District is ready for.”

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However, David Strom, a Republican consultant who worked on Tom Emmer’s gubernatorial campaign, disagrees. He believes that Pederson’s distance from the conservative heart of the 6th district could be a disadvantage. 

“It’s a major complication because St. Cloud does not think of itself as an exurb, certainly not a suburb,” Strom said. “There’s a great deal of regional pride. They think of themselves as quite distinct.”

Furthermore, Strom noted, Pederson’s relatively quiet rollout of his candidacy means he has some catching up to do on name recognition.

“Neither Wright nor Anoka County has had much of an introduction to Pederson,” he said.

That won’t be a problem, Pederson said. “I love to campaign.  I love meeting constituents, putting myself in a situation to let them know where I am coming from.”

Pederson also points to his deep roots in the district: born in Glencoe, raised in Buffalo, graduated from Monticello High School and now earning a living in St. Cloud as the owner of a concrete-block manufacturing company.

He sees that in particular as a positive distinction: “I’m the only candidate in the race that comes to work every day and makes something and tries to sell it.”

Pederson’s volunteer campaign committee includes state Sen. Michelle Fischbach; Dave Gruenes, a former legislator and Commerce commissioner; and Gruenes’ mother, Marge, former chair of the Minnesota Republican Party. They will help him with fundraising.  He said it’s too early to discuss whether he would enter a primary contest.

“We’re trying to put together a plan that we think is a path to victory,” Pederson said. “The first stage is a lot about making money.”