Eight term Republican Rep. Mark Olson, who was shunned by his caucus after a domestic assault conviction, said today he will not file for re-election for his Big Lake seat in the state House of Representatives.
The departure of Olson, who labelled himself an independent after he was removed from the GOP caucus, strengthens the party-endorsed election bid of former Minnesota Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer in the heavily-Republican district northwest of the Twin Cities.
In an interview, Olson said he only made up his mind not to run hours before a five p.m. filing deadline, describing the decision as a struggle. He said he was concerned about being a career politician and about what he termed the corruption of the party caucus system by the heavy influence of political money.
"I feel very privileged and very grateful to have such a good tenure. I feel blessed to have ended with one of the best terms I ever had and be free of the political bondage of the caucus system," Olson said. "I'm very content to be able to go with respect with what I've done."
Olson was convicted last year by a Sherburne County jury of misdemeanor domestic assault for causing his wife fear of bodily harm when they collided and fell to the ground behind their home in November. He was acquitted of intentionally harming or trying to harm her after his attorney argued that he had acted in self-defense in an abusive relationship.
Olson said his involvement in the criminal justice system and a desire to change the process was actually one of the factors that tempted him to stay in elected office.
"I have seen how serious the problems are, how destructive the outcomes can be, how destructive government's response to the problems can be, and how oppressive that it is to the people," Olson said. "That is the very hardest part of me saying no. I feel like I'm betraying every person who has contacted me. I feel like I'm lettting them down because this was a great opportunrity to change policy for the good for families. I found absolutely nothing positive about this system."
Olson said he expect to contact Kiffmeyer soon to talk about whether he will support her candidacy.The DFL-endorsed candidate is Steve Andrews of Big Lake Township.
Mark Brunswick • 651-222-1636