Senator Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, has a challenger of his party's endorsement. The Chisago County Press reports in Koran to seek District 32 GOP state senate seat:
Koran released a statement announcing his intention to run against his own party incumbent and describes himself as a no-nonsense common sense conservative.
Koran serves on the Lent Township Planning Commission and has been active in a number of local land use issues. He is employed as a senior sales manager for a financial institution and formerly worked as a manager with the Minnesota Department of Revenue.
Political parties in Minnesota caucus in early March, and the state conventions deciding party endorsement, follow soon after.
Nienow announced on his Facebook page that he will seek re-election; surprising many state government observers after he publicly acknowledged that he failed to make payments on a several hundred thousand dollar Small Business Administration loan, and filed bankruptcy.
Koran's name rang a couple of bells for us. In Tea Party activism: MIA in MN, a 2010 Politics In Minnesota article, Briana Bierschbach reported:
On a Saturday afternoon in July, a dozen or so locals sat under a gazebo in Central Park in downtown North Branch. “Wanted: Karl Marx” posters were stapled to the gazebo, and a welcome sign and a waving Don’t Tread on Me flag greeted members of the Old North Church Tea Party to what was billed as a candidate forum.
Participants sat on picnic benches that were drawn into a circle to face Ted Lazane, the event’s organizer. Lazane explained that the purpose of the gathering was to allow candidates running for public office in the area a chance to talk to Tea Party members.
But before the candidates could speak, one person in the crowd stood up and gave a five-minute speech about the federal government’s decimation of the Constitution. After he was finished, several others wanted to speak too, and were upset when Lazane said no. He wanted to get to the candidate discussion. Then another person stood up and protested to the candidates speaking, saying the Tea Party was not supposed to endorse political candidates. . . .
While candidates were speaking at the North Branch forum, several Tea Party devotees hovered nearby, grumbling about how Democrats have labeled the group as Republican, and how Republicans just assume they will have Tea Party support in November.
“We are sick and tired of the parties of the good old boys,” said North Branch resident Mark Koran. “It’s just a selection of the lesser of two evils. They should just put ‘none of the above’ on the ballot.”
Their ideal candidate is what Koran and others called a “constitutional conservative,” or someone who follows in lock step with their view of the country’s founding documents. Tea Party purists have described themselves as dejected dropouts from across the political spectrum: recovering Republicans, disenchanted Democrats, libertarians, or those who have been “politically uninterested” – as one North Branch resident put it – until now.
Koran and local land use issues
While the Tea Party has tended to be associated with removing the fetters of government from business and faith, Star Tribune blogger Michael Brodkorb reports that Koran describes himself as "an advocate for reasonable economic development that benefits the community, yet preserves its outstanding rural lifestyle."
Koran currently serves on the Lent Township Planning and Zoning Commission for the township that abuts North Branch, Minnesota. The minutes of the commission illustrate how Koran negotiates the tensions between "constitutional conservatism," economic development and the preservation of rural character (that some might be tempted to call NIMBYISM).
One example? Veritas Academy, a private school with a classical and religious foundation that's connected to Veritas Chapel, was put through a year of rigorous scrutiny in the permitting and zoning process. When the husband and wife team that owns the chapel asked for a text amendment to its permit, Koran "moved to deny the application . . . based on the fact that the church is allowed to operate a school under current Federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) without approval from a Township, City or County," according to the commission's minutes for May 2015.
Without the reason for the motivation, it might be thought that Koran was blocking the church's plans, rather than following RLUIPA.
Koran's scrutiny of two very different power generation projects might give some friends of theindustry pause--as well as Senate colleagues like Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center/Mendota, who believe that rural residents simply "have to expect" misery.
In December 2009, Minnesota Public Radio's Stephanie Hemphill reported in Residents divided over North Branch power plant project:
A national power company that hopes to build Minnesota's fourth largest power plant near North Branch faces opposition from neighbors.
LS Power says the natural gas-fired plant will actually be good for the environment. Gas emits half the carbon dioxide of a coal-fired plant, and the company has made efforts to address local environmental concerns.
Neighbor Mark Koran is fighting the proposed plant. Although he's lit up his front yard with an old-fashioned Christmas display containing $20,000 in lights, he's no fan of generating power nearby.
"With the additional trucking, all the the building infrastructure, the smokestacks, the lighting, the noise, the vibrations that are generated by these things, doesn't fit our comprehensive plans for our rural countryside," Koran said.
Koran said when he moved to the area three years ago he reveled in the peace and quiet of the area, which is a cross between farmland and northern suburb.
He says if there's a power plant with exhaust stacks up to 17 stories high in his back yard, the atmosphere will change for the worse.
That sort of an attitude might just rub Senator Rosen the wrong way, however much it might make fans of local control cheer.
More recently, Koran has questioned proposals for solar energy projects that seek to take advantage of the same portals to the grid as that which attracted LS Power. The minutes for the PUC's scoping and informational hearing in Stacy in April 2015 for the North Star Solar Electric Power Generating Plantillustrate his concerns (beginning on page 19).
We'll keep an eye on this one.
Photo: Mark Koran (seated at table) presenting at the PUC hearing in April 2015 via We Are Lent Township.
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