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19B House race heats up

Ditlevson, 19B, elections, 2024, steele county, dfl, mejia
Kay Fate and Alex Malm

Ditlevson stays in race to challenge Sexton

Three weeks after the Republican endorsing convention, Owatonna native Mick Ditlevson has announced his intention to run in the Republican primary election, set for Aug. 13.

The move pits Ditlevson against Tom Sexton, of Waseca, who won the party’s endorsement at the April 6 convention.

“I have spent time deliberating over my next steps,” Ditlevson said. “It was clear there was not a unanimous consensus between the four candidates for the 19B House seat. With the strong encouragement of district voters, I have decided to continue my race to be elected to represent them in St. Paul.”

Rep. John Petersburg (R-Waseca) created the vacancy with his announcement that he will retire at the end of this year.

Ditlevson has been actively campaigning since January, when he entered the race following Petersburg’s announcement.

“I am incredibly thankful to the delegates and community members who support my candidacy,” Ditlevson said. “Even after the endorsing convention, fundraising dollars continued to come my way. I remain ready to run the distance and work to earn every vote.”

He cited Sexton’s quick decision and lack of political experience as factors in his decision to continue.

“Tom entered the endorsing contest in the last two weeks,” Ditlevson said. “He does not have much political experience. In comparison, I have a depth of policy experience from my time at the White House and work at the United States Department of Energy, and an established ability to lead. Voters have expressed concern that they know very little about Tom’s policy platform or his ability to perform in the role.”

After wrapping up his work in the nation’s capital, Ditlevson returned to Steele County and became owner and operator of farmland near Blooming Prairie.

“My farm operation is a constant in my life,” he said. “I’m firmly committed to this region and plan to start a family of my own in this area. It’s not an option for me to pull up stakes and leave. The decisions made in St. Paul are those that our communities in southern Minnesota will live with for decades to come. I am not one to sit on the sidelines.”

Ditlevson’s focus, he said, is continued energy and optimism.

“For the last several months, I have met with – and listened to – constituents of House Seat 19B. I have met with local officials, business leaders, legislators, and community members. I continue to work toward learning about issues concerning voters in the district.”

There has been no indication if the other 19B Republican challengers, Chris Rausch and Taylor Zinkle, will continue their campaigns and run in the primary.

No DFL candidate has announced an intention to run.

The filing period for state office runs from May 21 through June 4 at 5 p.m.


DFL endorses candidate to replace Petersburg

Edelgard “Edel” Fernandez Mejia, an immigrant from Central Mexico, and current director of admissions for South Central College, is expected to face off in November against the winner of the GOP Primary this summer.  

The DFL Senate District Committee gave Fernandez the DFL endorsement on Saturday. He hopes to replace retiring state Rep. John Petersburg, R-Waseca, who previously announced he would be retiring at the end of this term and wouldn’t be seeking re-election for House District 19B seat. 

Fernandez said one of the first things he noticed after moving to Minnesota, over two decades ago, “was the lack of participation of people of color at the table.”

“I am hopeful I can be the voice of people of color who don’t understand the importance of voting and perhaps have never considered how they can have an active participation in elections,” he wrote in an email. 

After moving to Minnesota, he worked for a few years at Minnesota WorkForce Center as a Migrant Labor Representative, before going to Ridgewater College, where he served as a part-time director of multicultural affairs and was the head soccer coach.

When the program ended due to budget cuts, he went to a similar full-time role at Riverland Community College, working in a similar role, before taking the post as South Central. 

If elected, he said, he hopes to “promote voter participation for this election and to put a face and a voice for members of our communities that have not been heard before.”

“I’m a true believer that unity can get us far and help us move forward as a region,” Fernandez said. “The moment we stop looking at the things that sets us apart and concentrate on our similarities, we will be able to accomplish great things.”

Steele County DFL Chair Bev Cashman said Erick Eschenbach was the other candidate for the endorsement but both candidates agreed to support the endorsed nominee.

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