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What led Sen. Rich Draheim to run for office was concern about the “perfect storm” of retiring baby boomers, a shortage of new workers and underfunded pensions. (Staff photo: Bill Klotz)
What led Sen. Rich Draheim to run for office was concern about the “perfect storm” of retiring baby boomers, a shortage of new workers and underfunded pensions. (Staff photo: Bill Klotz)

Breaking the Ice: From a nickname to a Senate seat

Sen. Rich Draheim earned the nickname “the senator” long before the Madison Lake Republican won his first term in November.

Draheim operates a real estate development company, an event center and a wedding shop. He previously worked for John Deere dealers in southern Minnesota for 20 years and owned a restaurant and marina for 13 years.

With countless acquaintances from his business ventures, Draheim inevitably ends up in conversations whenever he and wife, Lynette, go out, leading her to dub him “the senator.”

What led Draheim to run, rather than the nickname, was concern about the “perfect storm” of retiring baby boomers, a shortage of new workers and underfunded pensions over the next five to 10 years.

“We’ll have less income, less sales, less property tax probably at the same time we’ll have a bigger push on our systems,” said Draheim, whose district includes most of Le Sueur, northern Rice and southern Scott counties. “My kids will be graduating high school in this time frame. I want to make sure they have every opportunity that I had to be successful.”

Q. What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A. Say hi. I’m pretty approachable. My wife used to make fun of me whenever we went anywhere because people would come up and talk to me because I knew so many people. She used to call me “the senator.” It’s kind of ironic. She would just roll her eyes at me.

Q. Who was the first presidential candidate you voted for and why?

A. I used to be a Democrat. It would have been a Democrat when I was 18 or around there. I grew up in a Democratic home. It wasn’t until I was working full time that you got to see how things really worked. I consider myself a fiscal conservative first. Because I know to do well we have to be responsible with our money. As a society we have some moral obligation to help people. But to do that we have to be better stewards on how we spend our money. And it’s gotten away from us.

Q. What is a pet peeve of yours?

A. Up here one of my pet peeves is when senators don’t go to their committee meetings or vote. To me it’s our job. We’re supposed to represent the people.

Q. What’s a favorite activity outside your job?

A. I really like to fish. I like food. I like live music. With the young kids (8 and 12), it’s mainly following young kids around. They’re very active so most of the free time is spent at sporting events or 4-H or Boy Scouts or whatever with the kids.

Q. If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do?

A. I like outdoor, lake stuff, fishing, boating. I live on Lake Washington. I’m in the least populated part of the district. It’s a 1,500-acre lake, which is probably the biggest, deepest lake in the area with a good variety of fish.

Q. What would be one way to end partisan polarization?

A. A third party. Take the money out of politics. Until we take [the money] away I don’t see how it’s going to change unless we had a third or a fourth or a fifth party … or some other entity that would maybe equalize the blame game so there might be a little more fact-based talk.

Q. Where do you like to eat lunch?

A. I usually go down to the Capitol if I have 15 minutes or have a sandwich ordered in. Normally I go down to the Capitol, the Rathskeller.

Q. What’s your first impression of the Capitol renovations?

A. Beautiful. They did a great job. As a fiscal conservative you look at the price tag and you’re going holy criminy. But it was falling apart. You only have two options, you fix it or you start over. To start over would cost a lot more than the $330 million that we spent.

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