At an endorsing convention held online Thursday, local Republicans overwhelmingly endorsed retired police officer and teacher Joe Moravchik for state legislature in District 20B.
The Lonsdale resident beat out trailer tractor driver Josh Gare of Montgomery for the GOP nomination. Gare was the Republican-backed candidate for the seat in 2018, but he lost in the general election to now-Rep. Todd Lippert, DFL-Northfield.
“It was a good night for our campaign team,” Moravchik said in a statement. “I’m grateful to the Republican delegates for their trust and support, and I look forward to a positive, issue-driven campaign.”
Moravchik brings a varied background to the race. After earning his undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, he spent six years as a high school history, geography and economics teacher and coach in New Mexico and Wisconsin.
Moravchik then transitioned to a career in law enforcement, spending a decade as a police officer with the Racine Police Department, Wisconsin’s third largest. He was forced to retire early after being severely injured in an auto accident. In 2007, he moved to Lonsdale with his wife and two daughters. He earned a law degree from William Mitchell College of Law in 2011, and during law school served as an intern with the Minnesota Legislature’s Public Safety Committee and the Rice County Attorney’s Office.
A first time candidate, Moravchik had to adapt his campaign to the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of face-to-face meetings and door knocking, he and his campaign team have had to connect with delegates and voters via phone and via the online platform Zoom.
Over the course of those conversations, Morvachik said he’s gotten to hear from dozens of voters about the issues most important to them. Right now, of course, nearly all of those issues relate to or are impacted by the pandemic.
As the state grapples with a sudden projected $2.4 billion budget deficit, just months after a $1.3 billion surplus was projected, Moravchik said that voters want to see more transparency and efficiency in government.
“People are very worried that the state will have a large deficit,” Moravchik said. “They want to see us streamline and track agencies like we’ve never done before.”
He said the economic crisis caused by the pandemic is also of great concern to voters. With many small businesses on the brink of financial ruin, area residents are eager to see the economy reopen.
“Of course they want workers protected, but they also want a balance,” he said. “We need for workers to be safe and businesses to be able to open again.”
Additionally, Moravchik said that the district needs more accessible and affordable health care. He’s familiar with the challenges the system faces at this time of great need, as his wife Chris works at District One Hospital in Faribault.
Traditional legislative issues like education and transportation funding are concerns as well. Moravchik said that many district residents believe that Greater Minnesota rarely gets a fair shake from St. Paul when it comes to funding.
Moravchik acknowledged that winning the district is likely to be a challenge for any Republican. While District 20B includes conservative, rural portions of Rice and Le Sueur counties, it’s anchored by Northfield, a DFL stronghold. Moravchik said that he hopes to win voters over with an inclusive and positive message. He pledged that if elected, he’ll do everything he can in St. Paul to help his constituents.
“Throughout my whole career, whether I’ve been coaching, teaching, working as a police officer or running youth programs, I’ve always focused on doing what I can to put people in the best position to succeed,” he said. “That is going to be the theme of our campaign as we move forward.”
Republicans were also scheduled to endorse a candidate to replace Rep. Bob Vogel, R-Elko New Market in District 20A, a conservative rural district that includes portions of Le Sueur and Scott counties. However, that has been postponed until May 29.
Three candidates are running for the Republican endorsement in that race. They are U.S. Air Force Veteran and small business owner Alan Mackenthun, bank president and National Guardsman Brian Pfarr, and Marko Popovich, a former member of the New Market Township Board.