This year more than ever, Republican voters in the Aug. 9 primary should favor a thoughtful, independent voice that favors common ground and civil dialogue over gridlock and mortal political combat.
That’s why the Star Tribune Editorial Board is endorsing John Howe in the primary for the Second Congressional District. Howe’s time as mayor of Red Wing gave him valuable perspective on governing at the local level. Small-city mayors have to regularly engage with voters, learn the value of maintaining relationships and get a front-line view of how federal policies play out in their communities, for better or worse.
Howe served just a single term in the state Senate, but he made his mark as a legislator willing to take political risks to achieve compromise and move forward, even at the risk of displeasing party leaders. That doesn’t make him a moderate or a renegade. It makes him a conservative who is pragmatic about what is achievable, and this country has far too few of those. The Editorial Board is not in agreement with the NRA-endorsed, fiscally conservative Howe on all of the issues, but he has proved that he is willing to work for solutions, even if it means reaching out to opponents.
Howe also has a broad range of life experience that makes for well-rounded perspectives, from his upbringing on a Minnesota farm to a career that spans work as a laborer, a corrections officer and an independent store owner. He has demonstrated a long-term commitment to civic engagement, from his time on the Prairie Island Nuclear Storage Task Force, nearly a decade ago, to his appointment to the state Clean Water Council by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and his current work with the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators. Alone in the primary field, he has singled out the corrupting influence of special-interest money in politics.
Opponent Darlene Miller carries the endorsement of outgoing Rep. John Kline and has a strong entrepreneurial background, but the range of her experience is much narrower than Howe’s, and her complete lack of political experience means a fair amount of on-the-job training. Former radio talk show host Jason Lewis, who once styled himself as “Minnesota’s Mr. Right,” is knowledgeable on the issues, but also representative of the abrasive political culture that brought us Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee. Also on the ballot is newcomer Matthew Erickson.
In the four-way primary, Howe blends the kind of political know-how, an outsider’s approach and a commitment to common sense that should be welcomed by Republican voters in the Second Congressional District.