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Published April 19, 2024

University mechanic bids for seat in Congress

Swarm says his work experience as a mechanic would help make him an effective congressman.

Harley Swarm’s day is filled with maintenance calls, work orders and helping to keep the building systems in Moos Tower up and running.

In less than a year, all this could change; Swarm could be trading in his workers’ coveralls for a suit, leaving the East Bank for Capitol Hill.

Swarm, a maintenance mechanic, is making a bid under the Constitution Party for the 3rd District representative seat currently held by Jim Ramstad.

Rep. Ramstad, R-Minn., announced last year that he wouldn’t seek re-election after 18 years of serving his district.

Swarm said he grew up on a small-town farm, where politics were rarely emphasized.

“Up there, the closest thing you get to politics is who’s running against the sheriff,” he said.

Swarm has been a mechanic at the University for eight years, but before that, his occupations ranged from bartender at the American Legion to working for a natural gas company.

The Constitution Party of Minnesota will decide in June whether to endorse Swarm, Tammy Houle, Minnesota Constitution Party chairwoman, said.

Houle compared the party’s platform to that of 2008 presidential hopeful Ron Paul.

“We’re 100 percent pro-life, we are pro-Second Amendment, we believe in a non-interventionalist foreign policy,” she said. “We believe in abolishing the IRS and the Federal Reserve.”

Swarm said he agrees with most of the party’s major issues, calling it “everything the Republican Party used to stand for.”

He said he’s been reading up on the 3rd District constituents, who range from the very wealthy, in suburbs such as Eden Prairie and Edina, to the not-so-wealthy, in areas like Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center.

“A lot of people who run for office are lawyers, former judges, people who have been out of the mainstream,” he said. “They don’t know how to connect with people who are working, who have to – from day to day – look at whether they’re going to make it to the next pay check.”

Swarm has lived in Coon Rapids for the past 30 years and has never set foot in Washington, D.C.

Rose Scharber, Swarm’s mother, described him as a “pretty bright kid,” and said he always preferred news and sports on TV as a youngster.

Scharber said she’s proud of her son, “because he’s accomplished so many things in his life.”

Even though she doesn’t closely follow politics, Scharber said, “There are people out there who can change all of this, and need to speak up.”

As for her son’s candidacy, she said, “I just know he’s always been a good son to me, a good family man.”

Swarm said he thinks aspects of his current job would help make him an effective congressman.

As a mechanic, Swarm said he’s dealt with the University administration, worked with customers and provided a service.

As a congressman, Swarm said he would be “looking after what people want, what the cities in your district want and the country as a whole.”

“You balance the three, so one doesn’t overshadow the other,” he said.

He said even his days on the farm could help him in Congress – like “knowing what it takes to manage a microeconomy” – in a time when recession talk looms heavily on the nation’s conscious.

Swarm is currently running against state Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Eden Prairie.

Swarm said he isn’t worried about losing the race so much as “not having a good showing.”

“I don’t want to embarrass the party about it,” he said.

John Cooney, Ramstad’s former campaign manager, said 3rd District constituents are well educated and savvier to seeing through political statements.

Cooney said a third-party candidate in the district would face primarily financial obstacles.

“They would need to have access to a lot of money, about $2 (million) or $3 million,” he said.

Ramstad will probably support Paulsen in the election, Cooney said.

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