Winona senator runs for reelection

Minnesota+State+Senator+Jeremy+Miller+is+running+for+office+representing+Minnesota%E2%80%99s+28th+district%2C+which+includes+parts+of+Winona%2C+Houston%2C+and+Filmore+counties.+He+is+a+member+of+the+Republican+party.%0A

Mohammed Islam

Minnesota State Senator Jeremy Miller is running for office representing Minnesota’s 28th district, which includes parts of Winona, Houston, and Filmore counties. He is a member of the Republican party.

Matthew Drewry, Features Reporter

Minnesota State Senator, Jeremy Miller, is doing something familiar–running for public office–in an unfamiliar time.

Miller is a Winona resident representing Minnesota’s 28th district as a member of the Republican party. The 28th district includes parts of Winona, Houston and Filmore counties.

Miller, 37, first took office in 2011, and is the youngest president of the Minnesota State Senate in its modern history.

Miller said his role in legislation this spring was dramatically different than what he is used to. Instead of focusing on the usual projects and legislation, he was tasked with COVID-19 relief funding.

“I helped guide the legislature’s emergency funding efforts for hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and healthcare professionals. We also provided funding for small businesses who were impacted by the pandemic,” Miller said. “We provided funding for disability service providers who were impacted by the pandemic. We passed some funding for cities, counties and townships.”

Miller also outlined many of the difficulties with establishing the relief process.

“Democrats and Republicans, business and labor could not come to an agreement and basically the discussions just halted. They just stopped and I came and I said ‘this is not acceptable.’ In the matter of a few days, we had an agreement in place,” Miller said.

If Miller is reelected to the State Senate, he has a few goals in mind for his next term.

“The number one thing we can do is pass a bonding bill,” Miller said. “In my opinion, it’s one of the few stimulus-type projects that we can do at the state level to help stimulate the state economy.”

But Miller says he is not solely a politician; he is also a small business owner who operates Miller Scrap Co. with his brother.

Miller said that Miller Scrap Co. (MSC) felt the effects of the pandemic despite being an essential business.

“We were impacted significantly and in a negative way,” Miller said. “We were down over 40% compared to the previous year.”

MSC received a $200,000 paycheck protection loan, allowing them to retain 15 employees and provide benefits despite this drop in business.

Beyond business, Miller said his political campaign is very different this year.

“Instead of walking the parade route and shaking people’s hands, I was either driving a car or in the back of a pickup waving at people,” Miller said. “So, that’s very different, especially for someone like me who really likes to engage people and listen to their thoughts and ideas.”

Miller said he is still door-knocking to meet his constituents where they are, albeit in accordance with restrictions.

“People are much more receptive now at the doors and I wear a mask and keep my distance, but still able to get the input from constituents which has been really helpful,” Miller said.

“Instead of walking the parade route and shaking people’s hands, I was either driving a car or in the back of a pickup waving at people,” Miller said. “So, that’s very different, especially for someone like me who really likes to engage people and listen to their thoughts and ideas.”

Miller said he is still door-knocking to meet his constituents where they are, albeit in accordance with restrictions.

“People are much more receptive now at the doors and I wear a mask and keep my distance, but still able to get the input from constituents which has been really helpful,” Miller said.

Miller said his commitment to the people is paramount for his previous political success.

“I put the people ahead of any political party,” Miller said. “I want to do what’s best for southeastern Minnesota and the entire state of Minnesota. And I think that approach has been why I continue to be successful in elections.”

He says that the voters are at the core of his campaigns, the first of which he won by just 437 votes.

“Early on in my legislative career I was given the nickname the ‘people senator’ because I always say, well, what do the people think, let’s talk to the people,” Miller said.

That being said, Miller says he does face difficulties inside the State Senate, one of which being extreme partisanship.

“The polarization of party politics has gotten worse every year that I’ve been in the legislature,” Miller said. “I will continue to focus on bringing people together. And I think that is going to be more of a challenge this year than it has been in the past.”

Miller claims that his people skills bring potential solutions to the division inside the State Senate.

“If you talk to my colleagues, they would tell you that I’m a relationship builder and consensus maker and someone who is focused on doing the best thing for the people in Minnesota,” Miller said.

While Miller had little to say about his opponent in the upcoming election, he did share distaste for what he claims are false attacks on his legislative record.

“[These attacks included] several negative letters to the editor, most of which have false information, which is disappointing,” Miller said. “I don’t play political games. I just like to focus on listening to people working together and getting things done. So, we don’t engage in those type of negative campaign tactics.”

Politics runs in the Miller family, with his father Jerry Miller, serving as mayor of Winona for 16 years.

Miller says he continually relies on the values he learned from his father during his upbringing, including the, “hard work, respect and honesty … those values are incredibly important and I take those with me to the legislature through the pandemic.”

Miller described what he believes makes Winona special and how it drew him back after his first year of college.

“I think sometimes, as locals, we take Winona for granted and it took me one year being away to know how much I really, really loved and appreciated the community,” Miller said.

Winona State University College Democrats’ president Eric Schulz said that while he sees Winona being represented in Miller’s legislation, there are some issues with it.

“I feel like college students are being left out,” Schulz said. “I [also] am not a fan of politicians owning companies, but (Miller) is a really genuine guy.”

Miller did touch on his actions in aid of college students, saying that he has worked to increase funding for local college campuses and the state grant program.

Miller also responded to the Senate Statue 135a.01, which promises the legislature will fund higher education at a 66% level.

“It’s actually about 52% funded right now. So, we’ve gone from roughly 33% to close to 52%. So we’re getting closer to that 67%,” Miller said. “And I’ll continue to work hard with college students, faculty and staff to get closer to that 67%.”

Miller also addressed his voting on the Center for Interdisciplinary Collaboration, Engagement and Learning (CECIL) project, which would be a new building

that would replace Gildemeister and Watkins halls. He has been criticized for voting against the bill, however, he claims he only voted against an amendment to said bill.

“People like my opponent could try to say that I voted against the project… I’m still the chief author of the bill. I still support the project,” Miller said.

Miller has three sons, with whom he says he tries to maintain balance in family and work.

The race for the 28th district senate seat will take place Nov. 3, 2020 between Sarah Krueger and Jeremy Miller.

The polling place nearest to campus is Central Lutheran Church located at 259 West 7th St. Winona, Minn. 55987.

 

The opinions expressed in this paper are not necessarily those of Winona State University, the Minnesota State Colleges and University system, or the Winona State University student body.