A year and a half ago when state Rep. Jason Rarick was running to become state Sen. Jason Rarick, a News Tribune endorsement called him “respected” and “effective” in St. Paul. It praised his business background, union activism, private-sector experiences, and deep community ties.

Rarick won that election and has only grown bolder and more influential since assuming his new office.

This fall, Rarick has earned re-election in Minnesota Senate District 11, which is located west of Duluth and includes Carlton and Pine counties as well as parts of St. Louis and Kanabec counties.

“The six years that I’ve been in (the Legislature as a representative and senator), I’ve tried to take every opportunity to get out into communities. … These last nine months have been very difficult to get out. But that is what I am committed to doing,” Rarick said in an interview last week conducted via Zoom with the News Tribune Editorial Board. “By doing so, I’m listening to the voices and trying to understand what people want me to be doing down there and the viewpoints they want represented. … Even when I don’t agree with someone, I listen and try to take their perspective into consideration.”

Republican Rarick isn’t always shy when he doesn’t agree with someone. He has been particularly outspoken this year with his criticism of DFL Gov. Tim Walz and his handling of the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. His challenges contribute to the healthy checks and balances in our state.

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All lawmakers, Republicans and DFLers alike, are certainly going to have to be bold next year, a budget year with a COVID-caused $4.5 billion projected deficit. Rarick recognizes that — and the need for state agencies to consider those cuts that have the least impact on services to Minnesotans. Reporting mandates may need to be relaxed to further cut costs, Rarick said, and middle-level administration could see slashing first.

The last place for budget cuts is to classrooms, said Rarick, who also vowed not to consider any tax increases.

“Coming out of this, it’s going to be a pretty difficult ask, to ask, say, a restaurant or a salon or a fitness center to pay more in taxes. They’re already struggling. We’re going to have to figure out across the board how we're going to tighten our belts,” he said. “That’s going to be the biggest issue we face.”

Rarick is a master electrician with a background in construction and cited as one of his proudest achievements legislation placing a cap on payments withheld to contractors until the work is done. The withholding had crept up as high as 10%, but the law now limits it at the industry standard 5%. Rarick also helped pass a bill allowing contractors on multi-contractor projects to be paid even if other contractors hadn’t yet finished their work.

A high priority for Rarick — “since the day I was elected” — has been expanding high-speed internet access into rural Minnesota. He helped alter a state grant process to prioritize unserved and underserved areas and is working now with the city of North Branch on a pilot project to create a wireless service the city could then lease out.

“These last nine months have proven just how needed (broadband) is,” said Rarick, who lives in Brook Park, Minnesota, about nine miles southwest of Hinckley. “If our rural areas are going to stay vibrant, that’s something, going into the future, that we absolutely need.”

Rarick’s DFL challenger is Michelle Lee of Moose Lake, a former newscaster making her third run at public office in just the last two years. When a News Tribune candidate forum had to be scrubbed last week over a time conflict caused by the special session of the Legislature, Lee curiously declined to meet with the editorial board. Her unwillingness to answer questions on the record and participate fully in the public process can be seen as concerning to voters.

They can continue to support instead Rarick, who says he’s “learning more and more all the time” and who would be “honored” if eligible voters in District 11 “decided to continue keeping me at the Capitol working for them.”

ABOUT THIS ENDORSEMENT: This endorsement was determined solely by and was written by the News Tribune Editorial Board.