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7th District GOP tab Byberg for House race; DFL endorse Peterson

Lee Byberg

MOORHEAD, Minn. -- Delegates at the Minnesota 7th District Republican Convention on Saturday chose Lee Byberg, a Willmar businessman, as their candidate for Congress.

Byberg received more than 60 percent support of 258 delegates on the first ballot in a field of five candidates at the convention in Moorhead, party officials said.

The 35-year-old nominee brings an unusual biography to the campaign trail. He was born a U.S. citizen in Chicago to Norwegian parents who were missionaries in Brazil and Paraguay.

"I have seen other continents," he said in an interview after winning the nomination. "Let's not use these continents as a model."

Byberg is vice president of operations for Willmar's Life-Science Innovations, parent company of Willmar Poultry Co., among other firms engaged in agriculture, engineering and life sciences.

He has raised about $90,000 toward what he hopes will be a $1 million campaign war chest in his bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, DFL-7th District, who is chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

Meanwhile, Peterson got the endorsement Saturday from the 7th District Minnesota DFL Party meeting in Fergus Falls.

"As the leader of the Agriculture Committee, he is on the front lines working hard on issues important to Minnesotans," Minnesota DFL Party Chairman Brian Melendez said in a statement. "In the past two years alone, Rep. Peterson has been an integral part of historic legislation, crafting a farm bill that ensured a strong agricultural economy, promoted conservation, and provided millions of families and children with the food assistance they depend on during these difficult economic times."

Agriculture will be a main focus of Byberg's campaign. He advocates what he calls a less intrusive role in agriculture and other business sectors.

"I think farmers are looking at where the nation is going in general," and want new leadership with less regulation, he said.

Meanwhile at the 8th District GOP Convention Saturday in Duluth, retired Northwest Airlines pilot Chip Cravaack of Lindstrom won the nod to battle against U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, DFL-8th District.

No details were available about that convention, but four candidates were vying for the endorsement and they all said at a forum in Bemidji that they would abide by Saturday's endorsement.

Cravaack was a career U.S. Navy pilot before joining Northwest. In the military, he was a staff officer for NATO and served in the Navy Command Center at the Pentagon.

In a straw poll at the 7th District Convention in a seven-candidate race for Minnesota GOP nomination for governor, Marty Seifert of Marshall led the field with 170 votes or 66 percent, followed by Tom Emmer of Delano with 75 votes or more than 29 percent, Phil Herwig of Milaca got nine votes and Bill Haas of Champlin got 2 votes.

"That's good news," Seifert, who attended the convention, said of the results. "Two-thirds of the vote is always good news."

Minnesota Republicans will choose their gubernatorial nominee April 30 at their state convention.

Bemidji Pioneer Political Editor Brad Swenson contributed to this report.