Heather Klassen, of Butterfield, in her bid for the Section 23A seat is running a campaign based on people, not party politics.
For Heather Klassen, politics isn’t about party affiliation.
For Klassen, politics is about individuals.
“We are not Republicans or Democrats here [in rural Minnesota],” she said. “We are Minnesotans.”
In a national political environment that resembles Hatfield-McCoy’s, Klassen believes local politics are about individual identities.
Identities that move past political ideologies and affiliation, but identities that shape people on a personal level.
“Politics can be as simple as talking to people, on both sides of the aisle, and wondering what’s in the best interest of the individuals of District 23A.”
In her pursuit for the District 23A seat, her identity as a Minnesotan has helped her cross over and discuss pressing matters to both Democrats and Republican voters.
“For me, identifying the needs of all rural Minnesotans in all aspects of life and bringing them to the national stage is what matters,” said Klassen.
But what inspired Klassen, an MNsure-certified health insurance broker with no prior political experience to delve into the arena of politics?
Oddly enough it was Facebook.
Klassen recalls seeing political discussions on social media after the 2016 election devolve into ad-hominem arguments and non-contextual stat-spewing
“I figured with how negative the political climate was getting if I wanted to do something about it, I could complain online or get involved,” she joked. "So I decided to get involved.”
At first, Klassen began using Facebook to interact with online users about what most affected them.
Democrat, Republican or Independent; it didn’t matter. Klassen wanted to understand the needs of the local individuals.
“We’re more than just Democrats and Republicans - we’re parents, business owners, farmers, teachers and we all have these common issues that affect us.”
At times, these conversations turned into Klassen being insulted or trolled.
However, Klassen found she could have meaningful political discourse with members of opposing sides and come out of with respect and more importantly, solutions.
Klassen then decided to take her effort to the doorknobs of registered voters; hearing every concern and gauging what issues plague rural Minnesotans most.
Her campaign has taken on the same vein - Klassen has appeared the county commissioner, city and school board meetings of every town that touches District 23A.
District 23A covers four counties Martin County, two-thirds of Faribault, parts of Jackson, and a section of Wantonwan.
Overall, Klassen has been to meetings of 26 cities, spanning nine school districts - and in her travels has made sure to make notes of each separate meeting.
“I can’t begin to understand what impacts each town in District 23A if I don’t meet with the city council or school boards, and understand the pulse of the town and what matters to them I can’t fairly represent their needs.”
For Klassen, her goal is twofold: become a voice for rural Minnesota and bring rural Minnesota values to the national political landscape.
Of those issues, health care is one that Klassen has championed, and with her 15-year experience in the field, it’s become a mission for her to help Minnesotans get universal health care.
“Seeing residents sit in my office and either cry tears of joy over being covered by their current health plan or feel dejected because they can’t afford it, show that this isn’t a fight plaguing Democrats and Republicans, but rural Minnesotan of all types.”
In addition to health care, Klassen also has taken rural infrastructure and living wage to task.
She also cited internet infrastructure as needing plenty of improvements especially in rural areas where internet services affect small businesses and students from being efficient.
It’s a tall task for one person.
But for Klassen, she’s enjoyed the task and the road ahead.
“I just feel re-energized when I talk to someone whether I agree with them or not and we come out of that conversation with a better understanding and respect for wanting to improve the district.”
Longtime incumbent Bob Gunther of Fairmont holds the current District 23A seat.
Klassen resides south of Butterfield with her husband Tim, and five children and is available for inquiries at klassenformn.com