Nels Pierson prepares for first term in GOP-controlled Minnesota House
(THE MED CITY BEAT) - Christmas came early, and twice, for local realtor and community advocate Nels Pierson.
The 41-year-old Republican won his first term in the Minnesota House of Representatives on Nov. 4 by defeating his Democratic opponent, Rich Wright, by a nearly 20-point margin.
That same day, the state GOP won back control of the House by picking up 11 seats that had been held by the DFL Party.
"It's kind of an unclear mandate when the Governor is elected but the House is turned over," said Pierson, referencing the fact that Gov. Mark Dayton and his DFL allies won every statewide race in the 2014 Midterms. "I think [voters] are really trying to say we want you to work together, but we want a balanced approach to governing."
Pierson will represent District 26B in the Minnesota House, a seat left open following State Rep. Mike Benson's decision to seek the Republican bid for the 1st District Congressional seat. Benson, a two-term Republican, later dropped out of the race and announced plans to retire from politics.
Though the 2014-15 legislative session will be Pierson's first time voting on laws in St. Paul, he has been involved in the political process for more than a decade. He's served as the chair of the Olmsted County Republican Party and worked as a campaign manager for both then-State Rep. Carla Nelson (now state senator) and former U.S. Rep. Gil Gutknecht. In 2002, Pierson sought the GOP endorsement for District 25, but lost to Sen. Dave Senjem.
He announced his bid for the state House back in July 2013. But since then, he has declined to lay out specific goals, something noted in the Post-Bulletin's endorsement of him in October.
"I think it's arrogant and overreaching to think you're going to walk in to a group of 134 state House members and tell them 'these are my goals and this is how we're going to fix things,'" said Pierson in a recent interview with The Med City Beat.
Instead, Pierson has offered an outline of his priorities for the upcoming session: improving education, creating jobs and easing regulations on farmers and other businesses in southeast Minnesota.
"Right now, we can't even talk about being competitive about bringing businesses to the state, and that's unfortunate," he said. "We're really just trying to hold onto what we've created here."
State lawmakers will return to session next year with a projected $1 billion surplus, a result of the Dayton administration's tax hikes and an improving economy. News of the surplus has already sparked a heated debate over how the money should be spent. Pierson said the surplus provides the state an opportunity to cut taxes and reexamine spending priorities.
"We need to be cognizant that it's the taxpayers' money," he said. "We need to focus on making sure we're good stewards of that money and that it's wisely invested."
(Cover photo: Nels Pierson via Facebook)