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UPDATE: Candidates pitch at Stevens County DFL convention

UPDATE: Candidate Matthew Fredericks announced on Facebook that he plans to suspend his campaign. This story has been updated to reflect that information.

MORRIS, Minn. - Believe it or not, Morris is the largest city in Minnesota District 12, which might make the 4,848 square miles of the district the most rural in the state of Minnesota, Minnesota Senate hopeful John Schultz told those gathered at the Stevens County DFL county convention on Saturday, March 24.

Schultz, a DFL activist who lives in Big Stone County, recently ran in the special primary election to fill the Senate District 20 seat held by former state Sen. Gary Kubly of Granite Falls. Schultz lost to Rep. Lyle Koenen, who will next advance to an April 10 special election to fill Kubly's seat.

A former farmer, Schultz has an MBA from New York University and spent time working on Wall Street and doing investment advisory. Since 1999, Schultz has been working with nonprofits on fundraising and marketing.

Schultz said he wants to talk about education, health care and good jobs during his campaign.

Murray Smart

Another Senate candidate, Murray Smart of Beardsley, also emphasized his dedication to education. Smart works as the school counselor in Breckenridge and teaches driver education at Chokio-Alberta during the summer.

Smart has served as the president of the Minnesota School Counselors Association and has been active lobbying in Washington D.C. and the state capitol for support for education.

In addition to concerns about education funding and the cost of health care, Smart said he is an outdoorsman that is concerned about the threats of cuts to programs that support natural resources.

"Education is a passion of mine," said Smart. "My parents were both educators. Actually, my parents were more Republicans than Democrats, but my mother would be very disappointed in the way the Republican party is currently progressing in the things they're doing."

Three candidates seeking the endorsement to run for the House in District 12A, where they will take on the GOP's endorsed candidate, Scott Dutcher of Brandon, also gave their pitches at the convention.

Tamy Reese

Tamy Reese, a teacher and Early Childhood Program Coordinator for the Morris Area school district, said she is running for the House because of her interest in public policy and frustration "at times, about the decisions that are made that maybe don't represent the needs in our rural communities as they could."

Issues that Reese said are important to her are ensuring that all children receive quality educational opportunities with adequate school funding and addressing the rising cost of health care.

Jay McNamar

Jay McNamar, current mayor of Elbow Lake, said he is concerned about the loss of funding and government support for cities. In Elbow Lake, McNamar said the local government was able to lower taxes without reducing staff or services by responsible spending and management of health insurance.

"We need to stop the loss of this funding by setting our priorities and balancing our state budget by revenue generation, not just cutting," said McNamar. "We need to balance our state budget without penalizing our schools and our local communities."

McNamar called on requiring the state's wealthiest two percent to "pay their fair share" rather than middle- and lower-income citizens.

Matthew Fredericks

Matthew Fredericks, a 20-year-old student at the University of Minnesota, Morris, spoke to the convention last Saturday, but has since withdrawn his candidacy from the race.

In a statement on Facebook, Fredericks said he had made "amazing progress" with the campaign, but that his age was a "major hurdle" as he moved forward to see the nomination.

The District 12, 12A and 12B endorsing convention is scheduled for Thursday, April 19 at 6 p.m. at Minnewaska Area High School.