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'Constituents got to know me, and I got to know them,' says Rep. Paul Marquart, who won't seek re-election in 2022

Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, has announced he will not be seeking re-election in 2022. Marquart was first elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2000 and is currently serving as chair of the Taxes committee.

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Minnesota State Rep. Paul Marquart was one of the speakers at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Becker County Museum in Detroit Lakes on Thursday, May 27. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)

After 22 years representing the citizens of Clay and Becker Counties, Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, has decided not to seek re-election in 2022.

In a Jan. 11 statement, Marquart said it was "time to try new things and to spend more time with my family and those fun grandchildren.”

Marquart said he thought one of the most enjoyable parts of being a legislator was going door-to-door and meeting with constituents.

"Constituents got to know me, and I got to know them," he said in an interview with the Detroit Lakes Tribune. "It kept me grounded and it kept me focused, and it was a constant reminder of who I serve."

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He added that he's made many friends over the last 20 years and, even if they weren't on the same side of the aisle, the conversations were always great. Marquart also mentioned how proud he was to help secure state funding for the Heartland Trail and the Becker County Museum projects.

"The folks in DL, the leadership, people like Bruce Imholte and Becky Mitchell, Detroit Lakes just always rallied behind things so well and it just made our jobs as legislators much easier to be able to get funding like that, because they were so committed and there would be all of this buy-in for all the other entities … and that helps sell those projects," Marquart said.

He also noted Detroit Lakes' submission of a 2022 state bonding request for the $2.2 million Washington Avenue Ballpark renovation and is hopeful that it will be included in the final bonding bill expected to be passed during the legislature's upcoming session beginning Jan. 31.

Marquart is currently serving in his 11th term and was first elected to the state legislature in 2000. He is the sitting chair of the Minnesota House Taxes Committee and a member of the House Education and Finance Committee and Ways and Means Committee.

"I just really feel grateful and thankful that the people in the Detroit Lakes area, and in the district, gave me this wonderful opportunity to serve them and be a state legislator," said Marquart.

He said still plans to teach at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton High School for the foreseeable future, where he has taught social studies for 38 years.

"I leave with no regrets and I don't have any negative view of anything, it's just, I turned 65 three days ago and I've been in elected office for 35 years, going all the way back to when I was first elected in 1987 to the Dilworth City Council," said Marquart. "So it's time for new things and it's time spend even more time with my family and my grandchildren. And it's that simple."

Marquart's seat is expected to be highly contested in the 2022 election as Minnesota DFL representatives try to hold the majority in the Minnesota House of Representatives, keep the governorship with the re-election of Tim Walz, and secure a majority in the Minnesota Senate. However, the voting demographics in the heavily Republican area of northwest Minnesota will make securing Marquart's seat difficult for county DFL officials.

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"He's going to be missed not only because he's a great guy, but because he's a true public servant," said Ted Fiskevold, chairman of the Becker County DFL. "He started door knocking in 2000 and never stopped."

Fiskevold said he believes a conservative DFLer should step up and run for the open seat, and warned that a candidate who is considered "too left-leaning" would struggle to form a winning coalition.

"We're going to try to find a DFL candidate who will fit the district and be able to win," he said.

Marquart said a good legislative candidate may have some local government experience already or be a member of various community organizations, or could be prominent in the local business community.

"I think a person who is grounded in the area, represents the values of the area, and can get out and really meet people stands a good chance of winning," he said. "If you're someone who's respected … and you're out there talking to people and listening to people, I think that just carries a lot of weight and I think people appreciate that. If they can see you as one of them, I think that is really important."

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