Republican Steve Pape hopes to be a check on DFL’s ‘reckless disregard for our hard-earned tax dollars’

Democrat Kari Rehrauer and Republican Steve Pape are slated to face off in November for House District 35B, currently occupied by retiring Rep. Jerry Newton, who won by 232 votes last cycle.

Democrat Kari Rehrauer and Republican Steve Pape are slated to face off in November for House District 35B. (Kari for Minnesota/Pape for Minnesota House)

This article is the third in a series called “Swing-District Spotlight” in which Alpha News examines competitive state legislative seats across Minnesota.

A Coon Rapids City Council member and an engineer are battling to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Jerry Newton in a district where the margin of victory in 2022 was 232 votes.

Democrat Kari Rehrauer and Republican Steve Pape are slated to face off in November for House District 35B. Rehrauer is a former teacher who has sat on the Coon Rapids City Council since 2020, and previously served as the fundraising and communications chairs for the DFL in Senate District 37. She is also a field staffer for Education Minnesota, the state’s teachers union, according to her campaign website.

Rehrauer claims she was prompted to run after “the presidential election of 2016 changed my life. As a woman and science teacher dedicated to education, helping others, and environmentalism, I was demoralized by the direction of the new President.” Pape is a Vietnam veteran and engineer who is the president and CEO of Valley Star, Inc.

Pape and Rehrauer have overlapping areas of policy interest. Pape’s website denotes his support for “affordable, accessible” health care, “education excellence,” and “clean and sustainable air, water, food and agriculture.” Rehrauer, for her part, includes being able to “provide affordable healthcare,” “strengthen public education,” and “improve our energy” among her particular areas of interest.

However, the two candidates differ strikingly in other ways. Rehrauer is vehemently pro-abortion, having been endorsed by Pro-Choice Minnesota and declaring on her website “when abortion is banned, women suffer.” Rehrauer also supports gun control restrictions, including “universal background checks and red flag laws” and getting “weapons of war out of our communities.” Rehrauer is also a proponent of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), declaring “the murder of George Floyd shone a light on the longstanding racial disparities in Minnesota and all across the country. We must do better.”

By contrast, Pape is a proponent of Second Amendment rights, smaller government, and election integrity via the use of paper ballots.

Alpha News reached out to both candidates in order to get a better understanding of their perspectives and post-election goals. Rehrauer’s campaign did not respond. Pape, on the other hand, responded in great detail.

Pape explained the elements that distinguish his candidacy, telling Alpha News, “as a practicing Engineer (now retired) I am data and results driven. How I feel about things should not be a primary determinant of most decisions. The question is, how do my constituents feel?

“When I door knock in my district, I have been knocking on all doors, not just partisan favorites. I always ask about their issues and concerns and I listen to everyone’s opinion. When I do form an opinion, it must also align with our history as a Constitutional Republic,” Pape added.

While Rehruaer wears her public service record with pride, her activities are a cause for concern for Pape. Pape observed, “my opponent, currently serving on the Coon Rapids City Council, has a voting record that indicates problems differentiating partisan and personal bias from the needs and desires of residents. To me, this indicates a problem listening to constituents. This is an issue of trustworthiness. Kari cannot be trusted to do what is best for the district, but will more likely default to simple partisan and personal interests in decision making and voting.”

He stressed that his problem-solving background makes him better fit for the job than his opponent.

“While I do have a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the U of M, a Master’s Degree in Systems Engineering from UST, and three professional certifications, by themselves they mean very little. What matters is the results,” he said.

Among his three biggest priorities, Pape hopes to help cut taxes, do away with incentivizing entitlements for illegal immigrants, and undoing changes to the state flag, something which Pape noted represented a “betrayal to our state’s history” for many of his constituents. Pape has taken particular umbrage with the DFL for having “squandered a massive $18 billion budget surplus, and then had the audacity to add another $10 billion in new taxes,” which “shows reckless disregard for our citizens’ hard-earned tax dollars and will not be easily excused.”

“I plan to win with honesty, integrity and by keeping focused on the constituents of 35B, reaching out to effectively represent their interests,” he said. “We intend to reach out to every corner of District 35B with our message of faith, hope and opportunity to all, built on our constitutional principles.”

35B’s current representative, Jerry Newton, has endorsed Rehrauer in the election. In the 2022 election, Newton narrowly secured the seat by defeating Republican Polly Matheson by a margin of 1.3 percent, or 232 votes.


Evan Poellinger

Evan Poellinger, the Alpha News Summer 2024 Journalism Fellow, is a native Minnesotan with a lifelong passion for history and politics. He previously worked as a journalism intern with the American Spectator and an investigative journalism fellow with the Media Research Center. He is a graduate of College of the Holy Cross with degrees in political science and history.