I wish the voters of Senate District 13 had the luxury of deciding between two “nice guys” running to represent them in the state Senate, because two nice guys are running (“In state races, four newcomers would bring leadership, depth,” Oct. 30).

But much more is at stake. The special election between Republican Jeff Howe and Democrat Joe Perske will determine which party controls the Senate agenda, for good or bad, over the next two years.

If you’re like me, your parents taught you to choose your friends wisely. As the old maxim says: You are who your friends are.

Joe Perske isn’t the problem; it’s his friends.

Increasingly over the past several months, the Democratic Party has used identity politics to divide our country along racial and gender lines, smear good people’s names for political purposes (see: Judge Brett Kavanaugh), and turn political correctness into a weapon to cut down those with different viewpoints. A vote for Perske is a vote to give this harmful rhetoric a bigger platform.

Jeff Howe is the better choice for voters. He listens to and respects those with different opinions, and he isn’t afraid to use common sense to get things done.

Howe has a plan for lowering health care costs, and it’s working. Everyone will benefit from new laws Republicans supported to end surprise medical billing and lower prescription drug costs. According to the state Department of Commerce, legislation that Howe supported is already lowering insurance premiums as much as 33 percent for 2019. Perske, meanwhile, told the Star Tribune he “doesn’t have the solution” to rising health care costs.

When it comes to illegal immigration, Howe is clear that U.S. citizens’ safety comes first. He strongly disagrees with Senate Democrats’ proposal to make Minnesota a sanctuary state. Perske is radio-silent on the immigration issue, even as a caravan of several thousand people marches toward our southern border.

The last time Democrats were in power in the state Senate, their legislation led to skyrocketing health insurance premiums, they increased taxes on everyone and they even built themselves a brand-new $90 million office building with taxpayer money. We’ll never know if Perske could have mustered the courage to stand up against his party on those issues. But we know Howe voted “No.”

These issues matter, and the character of the people we put in power is more important than ever. The Senate District 13 special election is not just about choosing one nice guy or the other. It’s about rejecting the identity politics and political correctness that is harming our public discourse.

Please cast your vote for Jeff Howe in support of the Republican Senate majority.

Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, is majority leader of the Minnesota Senate.