State, U.S. politicians visit Albert Lea on campaign trails

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 31, 2006

By Rebecca Houg, staff writer

U.S. Rep. Gil Gutknecht was pounding the pavement Monday in Albert Lea, working the campaign trail by visiting small businesses. He started at the Lakeside Cafe & Creamery and drove to the downtown businesses along Broadway Avenue.

&8220;I&8217;m just out shaking hands and kissing babies,&8221; he said to shop owners.

Well, he shook hands anyway. There were no babies to be found that afternoon.

Douglas Loon and other representatives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce walked alongside Gutknecht, emphasizing their endorsement of the candidate.

&8220;He&8217;s been a consistently good vote in Congress for business, fiscal and tax issues,&8221; Loon said.

Gutknecht&8217;s track record includes lowering the cost of health care and working on opening new markets to grow the economy, he said.

&8220;He has a proven understanding on what&8217;s important to businesses. Both to the employers and the employees,&8221; Loon said.

Gutknecht&8217;s record show he agrees with the positions taken by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce 90 percent of the time.

&8220;I think my views and my values haven&8217;t changed. The views and values of my constituents haven&8217;t changed either, and I think they see that,&8221; Gutknecht said.

He said there is a big difference between him and his opponent.

&8220;When they see Gil is the same guy he&8217;s always been and when they see the kind of change this

guy is talking about,&8221; Gutknecht said.

Gutknecht said he was confident his constituents would stick with him, but he knew there was still work to do.

&8220;I wouldn&8217;t be out here working as hard as I am if I was home free,&8221; Gutknecht said.

Gutknecht faces Democrat Tim Walz, a Mankato teacher, in his re-election bid.

As he stopped in the different businesses, Gutknecht did his best to demonstrate his understanding of issues important to small business owners.

When he stopped in LET Energy Systems, a Bixby Corn Stoves dealer, Gutknecht couldn&8217;t stop talking about how much he loves the Minnesota-based product and his admiration for its inventor, Bob Walker.

&8220;This is the Cadillac of corn stoves,&8221; Gutknecht said. &8220;I want one.&8221;

He also stopped in at Johnny&8217;s Hobbies to introduce himself to owner Greg Sundholm.

&8220;I think both him and Walz have good things to say, but I wonder if having a new guy would be beneficial,&8221; Sundholm said.

He could see the advantages of voting for Gutknecht, who has a senior position on the House Agriculture Committee.

Other business owners declined to comment on their perspective of Gutknecht and the issues they face.

&8220;It&8217;s sad, but it can affect whether or not someone will do business with you if you say you&8217;re a Democrat or a Republican,&8221; one said.