*We are continuing our Meet the Candidates conversations for the November 3rd, 2020 elections. We recently talked with Spencer Igo (R) running for MN House District 5B. You can find his social media here. He is running against Joe Abeyta (DFL).
It is our goal to give you information so you can go to the polls ready to vote.
ARE YOU REGISTERED TO VOTE? Find out who will be on your ballot at mnvotes.org.
*KAXE/KBXE News and Public Affairs Director Heidi Holtan recently spoke with Spencer Igo. He is the Republican candidate for House District 5B against DFL candidate Joe Abeyta who has been contacted for an interview. The following transcript has been edited for clarity. The audio of this interview is available at the top of this page.
(Heidi Holtan) Q: Spencer Igo is the Republican candidate for Minnesota House District 5B. This is the seat currently held by Republican Sandy Layman, who is stepping down. This district includes parts of Itasca and Cass counties, towns like Deer River, Grand Rapids. Remer, Longville, Backus, and Pine River. Spencer Igo joins us now. Spencer, thanks for being with us.
(Spencer Igo) A: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.
Q: Why are you running for office?
A: When it really comes down to it, it's just a passion for all our community up here. Everything and who I am is being able to be raised and grow up here. And I want to take that ability and that blessing that I had, and really apply it to everyone in the community, and be their voice, and advocate for the things that we believe in, and keep making the communities of Itasca and Cass counties as great as they can be. That's really what it comes down to... just a passion to serve people and be their voice in Saint Paul.
Q: What are your top two priorities for this district? In other words, what are the biggest needs that you see of constituents in district 5B?
A: I think it's a kind of a two prong approach. I think it's great that you asked that question. Like I said, education and economy, and I'll start with education. You know, a lot of times politicians talk about education, where it's, "we need to fund more, we need to fund more," and in some shape or form funding is the path to go. But what I really think we need to get back to is this kind of career and technical and vocational training in our high schools. I've talked with teachers in the area, you know, back [in the] 80s, 90s, if you were a junior in high school and looking to fulfill your math credit, you know nowadays, you're taking like maybe a pre-calculus. If you wanted to go and go into the construction trades back in the late 80s, early 90s, you would take maybe a construction math class, where you get your math credit for learning how to do math on how to frame a house. It's technical training like that in our high schools and diversifying different paths for students that will allow students to be able to discover their gifts and what their passion is in this life. And that's just going to help...not only our students for careers and feeling fulfilled in life, but that's how it's going to build our community, right? There's schools all around the state that are starting to do these things, you know, Virginia...starting those career pathways. These are all things that I think would be great for not only our region, but our state as a whole. And I really want to try and advocate for that and work with area teachers and leaders to kind of come up with ways that we can institute that into our schools. You know, bring back home ec, ...Grand Rapids High School has a great tech program. We can continue to build on that stuff and give avenues for students to diversify and find their gifts. Secondly, it comes down to building a more diverse and strong economy.
I mean, that's a very broad message, but there's some great ways we can do that. We have some industries in Minnesota, our three Ts: timber, taconite, and tourism, which are all great. And we need to continue to support and build on those, but there's ways that we can encourage and bring more manufacturers, more jobs to our area. I want to work with the area leaders to make that happen...we don't need to bring another big box brand. We don't need to bring $15 an hour jobs. We can actually bring strong stable jobs that support a family wage. If one good thing that came of COVID, is that it showed that with responsible broadband internet access, which I'm a strong advocate of, we can bring industries that exist in the Twin Cities metro up to greater and northern Minnesota, which bring great paying jobs, which hence build our communities, which would support small businesses that can really help us all thrive up here. So, you know, education and economy right there. I think that's kind of my two pronged approach. Something I'm really passionate about, but really, I want to work with our community, take our leaders, our people's thoughts on how we want to bring those to fruition and bring those down to Saint Paul as their next state representative.
Q: So it sounds like the education part really plays into that future economy that you're talking about there. I know it also brings more people coming to the region. We have a monthly conversation about real estate, and it's been pretty amazing to hear about because of COVID people moving here, because there is, in some areas, great broadband and they find a better way of life up here, or a more economical way of life for a lot of them.
A: Oh, absolutely. I can confidently say that we live in some of the most beautiful area in the entire world, and we should all be blessed to call it home. And I think people are discovering just how great a lifestyle in northern Minnesota really is. And with broadband, we can couple it to create a way of life up here that's just fantastic. I mean, raise families and build communities. One of the reasons that I have such a passion to serve is because growing up in Grand Rapids, we're such a tight knit community that takes care of each other and looks out for each other. It's a fire inside me to want to give back as much as our community gave to me growing up. I really think our best days are still ahead of us, really.
Q: We're talking with Spencer Igo today. He's the Republican candidate for Minnesota House District 5B. You have worked on campaigns before... Jason Lewis and Pete Stauber. How is this different for you running for office yourself?
A: So I have a little experience doing this in the past, as an activist that had some passions. But now, this has turned into a passion of "this is my home," right? When I'm out knocking doors and working with people, it's not like I'm coming into someone random I've never met before. This is, "Oh, it's my elementary school teacher." It's my best friend's parents...I mean, this is community activism. At its base, it's grassroots advocacy, and it's inspiring. You know, every day I just wake up, I'm looking forward to the next day. It's just so great to be so tied in, I guess, because it is home. Every day, I'm working to do something...I'm fighting for our home, I'm learning for our home. It's a whole new level. It's just the fire that's inside of me is even larger than ever, having this opportunity to try and run and represent my hometown really.
Q: So when we were talking about people moving up here and economics, I think sometimes we hear from Republican candidates a phrase "our way of life." And I don't think that is just Republicans that have that feeling about the places where they might live. If you win this seat, how do you serve the people who didn't vote for you?
A: One of the best parts, I think, about running for a local state race like this is it's about everybody. Something unique that I pride myself on doing is when I'm putting my website out there, my Facebook, my campaign literature that I knock on doors with, I put my personal phone number on there because I really want to hear from people. Right on my literature, I want to hear from you. This is about all of us and about what we all feel we need here on our great northern communities. To be a good legislator, you're supposed to be a vessel that goes down to one of our capitols, in this case Saint Paul, for the people that elected you. Don't get me wrong. I have some ideas... I shared with them with you earlier about education and the economy. But at the end of the day, my job is to be available and transparent to every single person that I represent, and be their voice in Saint Paul.
Q: Well, let's dip into politics a little bit. Friday (September 11, 2020) saw another special session in the state of Minnesota. There's been quite a butting of heads between Republicans and Democrats at the legislature and, and the executive administration as well. President Trump still has executive powers during this pandemic. So do 49 other governors. If you were there right now, how you approach how the state of Minnesota has handled this pandemic right now.
A: We're over 180 days of these emergency powers here in the state of Minnesota. The way I start to talk about it... I think in the beginning, everyone was on board, right? We needed a lock down to figure out what's going on and reassess from there. I think the complaints that I'm hearing when I'm out in the community, the people I'm talking to, especially out at the doors, is people are tired of having one person kind of having all the power of what's going on in the state. We have elected members of our House and Senate that are all, like I mentioned, trying to be the voice for their regions, and it's being outshined and overruled by one person, and that's our governor. People want to have that power going back to the general assembly. And I think that, you know, the emergency powers need to be done. We have elected representatives and senators for a reason, that can kind of dictate what needs to be done for our state and especially our regions. I mean, one of the greatest complaints I hear is, you know, it's not just the Metro. We are greater Minnesota too. And that's kinda where that divide kicks in, you know, each individual region knows better how to handle certain circumstances. It's not blanket policy, and that's kind of what's happening right now. If I was down there right now, I'd definitely be voting to end these emergency powers for our governor, so that local area leaders, legislators, and elected officials could be deciding what their regions need, cause grassroots advocacy, grassroots politics, for lack of a better term, is what best serves the people.
Q: That is the Republican candidate for Minnesota House District 5B, Spencer Igo. You can find more information at his website, spencerigo.com. Thanks for your time today.
A: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks again for having me.