Two political newcomers received Republican endorsements Thursday at a joint district meeting for the Minnesota House race.
Delegates voted to endorse Brian Daniels of Faribault on the Republican ticket in District 24B, which also includes Ellendale and Medford.
Lonsdale business owner Dan Matejcek received the nod for District 20B, which includes Northfield and Le Center.
For both candidates, this is their first run at state office as Republicans try to take control of the House this fall. The DFL incumbents have experience with Rep. David Bly, DFL-Northfield and Rep. Patti Fritz, DFL-Faribault. Fritz has been in office for nearly a decade.
In his speech, Daniels touted small business, a sector he said he’s served for over 40 years. He told the delegates that his goal is to serve small business owners. He also spoke about reducing government influence, ridding the state of MNsure and fostering religious values.
“I think our religions have been attacked,” he said. “Our family values have been attacked.”
He also talked about representing the GOP platform on social issues like marriage, but not before the group voted for more speech time. That process required delegates to vote to temporarily change the speech rules and then vote to extend the time.
One man asked the candidate if he had any economic strategies. Daniels replied that he isn’t a politician at heart, but would work with others on the issue before moving back to the business sector.
“I would plan on being in for one or two terms, if elected, and move on to something else,” he said.
Daniels shares that feeling of inexperience with Matejcek, who started AJ’s Repair, Inc. 10 years ago and didn’t follow politics heavily in the past. He characterized himself as “too honest,” and repeatedly cautioned himself aloud that he doesn’t want to say anything too polarizing.
He said his decision to pursue politics came because he was frustrated with political gridlock. Thursday morning, he turned 49 percent of his business over to his five employees so that he could run for office.
It’s a new experience that’s turned his life upside-down, he said, but he’s willing to learn.
Matejcek’s speech focused on his character. When a woman asked what specific issues he wants to address, he replied that there are a lot of them. He described himself as a quiet, back-room worker and was visibly nervous in the spotlight. Relating to his repair work, he likened himself to a tool that’s useful, but may need some sharpening.
But it’s his honesty, he said, that would make up for his inexperience.
“I don’t have a record to run on,” he said. “What I can run on is character.”
Matejcek asked the delegates to be his networking team in the campaign. One audience member, Bron Scherer, announced his support to overthrow the “despicable” Rep. Bly.
Daniels also said he would rely on his network of supporters in the campaign. His sister, Rep. Marion O’Neill, R-Buffalo, introduced the candidate and gave her support. Daniels also dropped the names of other representatives who are backing him.
Experience or not, Daniels said he has a winning shot with the GOP.
“I really think this may be the election year where we get people crossing party lines,” he said. “They might be a Democrat, but they might not agree with some of the things the Democrats are doing.”
Reach reporter Matt Hudson at 507-444-2372. Follow him on Twitter @OPPMattH