St. Charles resident to run for congress


Kristen Carrie

Ralph Kaehler, a Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives in Minnesota’s First Congressional District, stands on his fourth-generation family farm in St. Charles, Minn.

Kelly Johnson, News Reporter

November 2020, local St. Charles resident Ralph Kaehler will be challenging both Jim Hagedorn, the current Republican holder of the first district Congressional seat, and returning candidate Dan Feehan.

Kaehler is running as a Democrat in the 2020 election, but on many issues, he identifies as a moderate.

“I’m a moderate. I am on the liberal side of social obligation and humanity, and on the conservative side of effective spending and justifying growth” Kaehler said.

The issues that Kaehler identifies as the primary focal points of his campaign are climate change, having committed and invested representation in government and better health-care.

Kaehler’s son is the founder and CEO of Novel Energy Solutions, a fast-growing solar energy company that has brought in over 250 million dollars of renewable energy projects to the state.

“I stepped forward because when I looked at our representation right now, I believed we could do better. As I analyzed the situation, my experience and background give me a better understanding of the district than the other candidates because I grew up here, I’ve worked with the people here, my careers here, my families here, and most importantly, just like all the voters and the people, my future is here,” Kaehler said. “So, going forward for my family and our employees, success is dependent on Minnesota being prosperous, and that makes me unique.”

Kaehler also explained that his career as a fourth-generation farmer and his role in Novel Energy Solutions make a case to the voting public that rather than becoming an elected official who then moves in the direction of change, he has taken steps towards sustainability and a better future as a citizen, and hopes now that he can be elected to continue this pursuit.

If elected, Kaehler hopes to draw attention to the healthcare system and says that he firmly believes that healthcare should be three things: affordable, accessible and of quality.

Kaehler’s stance on healthcare comes partially from the role it has played in his family’s life.

Kaehler’s wife Mena is a survivor of breast cancer, 6 years in remission. The healthcare that Kaehler had through his job played a critical role in the Kaehler family’s fight against cancer.

“Because of the Affordable Care Act and the essential requirements, we could get health care,”Kaehler said. “Without it, we would have had a preexisting condition, it would have capped out, and our farm would have been at risk of being lost, because we didn’t have the million dollars to pay for that treatment.”

Kaehler said that this experience with healthcare, along with its importance to his employees, gives him a unique perspective on the ongoing debate about healthcare in American politics.

After being asked by Winona State students about his take on the student debt crisis, Kaehler said he feels that like many of the other major issues, the student debt crisis can be worked on from a moderate partisan perspective. Kaehler also said he feels that this perspective will benefit people across socioeconomic status.

“I don’t believe in giving stuff for free. You need to have skin in the game. Like student debt or even healthcare, you need to have some effort in the game to appreciate it,” Kaehler said. “Whether its sweat equity or cash, but if you’re greater in need based on circumstances, you [should] get more assistance. [But,] when you get to a certain level of income, you need to be responsible for it and that is how you create accountability and responsibility.”

Winona State’s president of College Democrats, Eric Schulz, said that Ralph Kaehler is scheduled to speak at their next meeting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 14.

Though Kaehler is a democratic candidate, College Democrats does not endorse Kaehler or any other candidate until after the primary election, when only one democratic candidate is remaining in the race.

Student Senate president Ben Ellgen further explained the dynamic of hosting political candidates when it comes to having a student senate that is nonpartisan and that represents the entirety of the Winona State community.

“Candidates or their staff have time to share information and then senators have the opportunity to ask questions and share feedback,” Ellgen said. “Customarily, senators and the larger senate body do not endorse political candidates. We would certainly welcome any candidate or elected official to come into a Student Senate meeting, regardless of partisan affiliation, so that we as students can share our experience and promote the interests of our shared community.”

Ralph Kaehler spoke to Winona State’s student senate at their meeting on October 30.