Bill Kuisle may not have much name recognition around the state, but the Republican candidate for Lt. Governor is working to change that, putting thousands of miles on the family’s Chevy in his travels to meet voters.
The Rochester-area farmer, selected by GOP gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson, is a former state House member and former Olmsted County commissioner. But he’s been out of politics since losing his House seat to a DFLer in 2004. Kuisle tried unsuccessfully to regain the seat in 2006 and 2008.
Heather Carlson of the Rochester Post Bulletin says Kuisle is a contrast to his big-city running mate Johnson:
From outward appearances, the two candidates are polar opposites. Johnson is a trim Hennepin County commissioner who usually sports a tie on the campaign trail. Kuisle is stocky with a former wrestler’s build who eschews suits in favor of Dockers and button-down shirts. Longtime Kuisle friend and former Rochester GOP state Rep. Fran Bradley said it’s easy for people to underestimate Kuisle based on his appearance, but that would be a mistake.
…While Kuisle may not have the traditional look, Bradley said he proved himself to be an extremely effective politician. Bradley recalled having his legislative office next to Kuisle’s and watching as all sorts of people sought out his expertise and council on transportation, agriculture and tax issues.
Johnson told the paper that the gender balance issue, so common now in gubernatorial campaigns, was trumped by Kuisle’s ag and transportation experience:
“I knew him and I trust him. He is just a really solid, honest, decent, smart guy. That’s kind of an important bottom line for me,” Johnson said.
University of Minnesota political science professor Kathryn Pearson told the paper that Kuisle’s farming background can appeal to rural Republicans:
“I’m sure he is helpful in Greater Minnesota in shoring up the base. He’s probably not someone who is necessarily winning over independent voters, but in a midterm election turnout is critically important, and so I think for Republicans who aren’t sort of the chamber-of-commerce types, I could see how he would be very appealing.”