CAMPAIGN FOR THE CAPITOL 2010: Paul Kohls

This is the second in an ongoing series profiling candidates for Minnesota governor in 2010. Members of the state’s Republican, Democrat and Independence parties with significant public policy experience will be featured.

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Mackenzie Martin

As a kid growing up in New Hope, Minn., Paul KohlsâÄô family dinners didnâÄôt include the typical small talk; his family discussed world issues. Those talks inspired Kohls to attend his very first precinct caucus in high school, work for local Legislature candidates and eventually hold an elected office as a state representative. Now, he has his sights set even further. Last June, Rep. Paul Kohls, R-Victoria, launched his 2010 gubernatorial campaign, adding to a growing pool of candidates seeking to replace Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Kohls was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives for District 34A, which covers parts of the south metro, in 2002 and is currently in his fourth term as a representative. Kohls serves as the lead GOP member on the Public Safety Finance Division and is also a member of the Taxes Committee, Finance Committee and Public Safety and Civil Justice Committee. A University of Minnesota alumnus, Kohls graduated from the Law School in 1999 after earning his bachelorâÄôs degree in political science at the University of St. Thomas. In addition to serving in the Legislature, Kohls worked as a lawyer before running for office. Kohls and his wife Kelly live in Victoria and have two children. KohlsâÄô campaign focuses on fiscal responsibility and limited government âÄî two traits he said he believes are necessary in order for government to function to best benefit individuals. Kohls said that while all candidates agree spending needs to be reduced, the difference lies in how each would reform government so people are affected as little as possible. âÄúMinnesota needs a leader who will stand up and actually fight for limited government and advocate for what will make the private sector more prosperous,âÄù Kohls said. âÄúWe need someone who not only says that but has a legislative record of doing that.âÄù Last December, Kohls proposed a state spending freeze that would limit state funding spending so as not to exceed its projected revenues. He said that by holding lawmakers accountable for living within their means, legislators would be forced to prioritize state spending and cut unnecessary and inefficient programs. But Kohls said what most separates him from other Republican candidates has nothing to do with policy and everything to do with style. âÄúOne of the things that Gov. Pawlenty has shown is that if you have the type of temperament that will get a broader cross-section of Minnesotans to listen to you, the conservative message has broad appeal,âÄù Kohls said. âÄúIâÄôm going to roll up my sleeves for the best interest of Minnesotans whether they are Republicans or Democrats.âÄù Kohls said advocacy for the private sector is important because if the tax environment becomes too burdensome in Minnesota, businesses will find more attractive options out of state, taking college graduates with them. Kohls said he believes state funding for higher education should shift from increased overall funding for institutions to more individual student aid through grant programs. With this change, students would hold financial force, and institutions would have to compete for students and their tuition dollars for funding. When asked about KohlsâÄô leadership, Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, who serves with Kohls on the Public Safety Finance Division, said he thinks he has been an involved and well-informed representative in his position on the committee. Committee Chairman Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, said that while he and Kohls disagree on politics as members of opposing political parties, he has a lot of respect for him as a colleague and called him a âÄúformidableâÄù candidate. âÄúHe has a good grasp of how the Legislature runs,âÄù Paymar said, âÄúand heâÄôs smart and articulate.âÄù