HD 43A nominee aims to capture DFL-leaning suburban open seat
On paper the open seat in House District 43A should favor the DFL nominee. Partisan indexes suggest the district – which includes all of Mahtomedi and parts of White Bear Lake and Maplewood – tilts in their favor by anywhere from 2 to 14 percentage points. The other two legislative seats in the district are held by veteran DFL incumbents, Rep. Leon Lillie and Sen. Chuck Wiger.
But Republicans are bullish on the prospects of GOP nominee Stacey Stout. She brings a formidable political resume to the contest, including more than a decade working in Washington. She was a staffer for Colorado Congressman Joel Hefley and Oklahoma Sen. Don Nickles. Stout also spent more than five years working as an attorney-adviser at the U.S. Department of Justice, focusing on legislative affairs. Her portfolio included identity theft, cyber fraud another financial crimes.
In 2010 Stout moved to Mahtomedi with her husband, a native of Stillwater, and two young sons. She currently serves as the associate director for public policy at the Minnesota Farm Bureau, specializing in federal legislative and regulatory issues. Her husband, Tim, is the chief of staff for Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek.
Stout decided to run after redistricting left no incumbent in her area. “I should step up,” Stout recalled thinking. “I have something to offer. It’s a citizen government and I feel like I reflect my community really well.”
Retiring Rep. Carol McFarlane, whose current district includes two precincts in the newly drawn HD 43A, has been advising Stout. “I think she’s a fabulous candidate,” McFarlane said. “I think she’s going to fit the district well.… She knows how to work with both sides of the aisle to reach solutions. That’s one of the things that draws me to her.”
Stout won the GOP endorsement over Maplewood City Council member Bob Cardinal on the first ballot in April and didn’t have a primary opponent. She raised just over $12,000, according to her pre-primary campaign finance report, with nearly half of that sum still in the bank. Stout’s fundraising should get a boost next month when Tom Ridge, the former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and Pennsylvania governor, hosts a fundraiser for her campaign. “He’s known my husband and me both for years,” Stout said. “He understands the importance of state government.”
Stout’s also shown vigor for campaigning. She’s already door-knocked the entire district. “Now it’s just about going back and meeting the people who weren’t home that first time,” Stout said.
Republicans are further buoyed by what proved be an unusually divisive DFL primary. Attorney Bob Hill took on the DFL-endorsed candidate, Peter Fischer. Hill spent at least $25,000 of his own money attacking his DFL rival with literature claiming he was pro-life (which wasn’t true) and the beneficiary of cronyism owing to the fact that his cousin is Maplewood Mayor Will Rossbach.
Ultimately Fischer prevailed by a 54-46 percent margin, but the attacks may have inflicted damage that could linger into the general election.
“I think the Democrats are fractured,” said Jim Carson, a former GOP chair in the 4th Congressional District, and HD 43A resident. “Peter Fischer’s probably broke. I think that puts him behind.”
McFarlane also believes the primary complicated matters for the DFL. “People are really confused about who’s running,” she said. “I run into people in the district and they don’t know who’s who.”
DFL activist John Nephew, who previously served on the Maplewood City Council, acknowledges that the primary did create some confusion. But he points out that Hill sent out a letter after the election backing Fischer, and that the additional campaigning spent on the primary could ultimately prove beneficial. “It’s not wasted effort,” Nephew said. “It’s votes in the bank. I think that in the end, Peter will turn this to his benefit.”
Stout isn’t emphasizing her party affiliation while on the campaign trail. She sticks to issues, stressing the importance of education, fiscal responsibility and improving the climate for businesses. “For some reason, these other states are beating us and they are growing jobs,” Stout said. “We’ve got to become competitive in getting the job market to grow here, especially being close to the border to [other states]. These are issues that we shouldn’t be seeing because it is something that we can address and turn around.”
Stout is a native of Oklahoma. She received her law degree from the University of Tulsa and spent time studying international law in the Netherlands. Having lived in the Mahtomedi for just two years, Stout faces the prospect of criticism for not having deep roots in the district. But she points out that her husband’s family has lived in the area for decades and that she’s quickly adopted it as home.
“I love the east side of the Twin Cities,” Stout said. “It’s just home to us. My sons are taking swimming lesson at the same YMCA my husband took swimming lessons at 40 years ago.”