Sparks challenger aims to be a strong voice in Senate

Published 10:01 am Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Hayfield man running as a Republican for the Senate District 27 seat said he hopes to be a strong voice for the district if elected.

Gene Dornink, 53, who will face incumbent Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, said he thinks the three biggest issues facing the state are health care, a poor business climate and a lack of good-paying jobs to grow the economy.

Business-related issues

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A small business owner and carpenter, Dornink said he thinks Minnesota has one of the worst business climates in the nation and that because of this, few businesses want to come to the state.

“We continue to lose out to neighboring states because they are friendlier to businesses,” he said. “Unless we change our business climate, businesses will not come to Minnesota.”

To make the business climate more competitive, Dornink said he thinks the state needs to restructure government rules, regulations and unreasonable corporate dialogue.



“The private sector is where jobs are created,” he said. “I believe that government is to help make a level playing field and positive economic climate in which business owners feel confident about investing and expanding in our state.”

One piece of the problem, he said, is workforce housing and broadband funding.

If the state had a better permitting process and realistic, common-sense regulations, workforce housing would organically be built across the state, he added. He wants to work to make the state more business friendly so new businesses will be attracted here and existing businesses will want to stay.

Regarding broadband, Dornink said Minnesota and the federal government just invested $100 million and we should see how this investment goes before spending more.

“Why potentially waste money on outdated systems?” he said.

He referred to newly-developed technology that is slated to be released in 2017 by AT&T called AirGig.

“We need to watch and see the innovation of the free market as it continues to improve our way of living, and be ready to change with it,” Dornink said.


When asked what the state should do to address the need for a long-term transportation bill, Dornink said the state first needs to pass a bonding bill. Then, it needs to pass a long-term funding bill without raising the gas tax. He said he thinks the practice of relying on the gas tax has been flawed for many years because of better gas mileage and diversity of alternative-fuel vehicles.

The state also needs to stop diverting existing general fund reserves and should earmark transportation-related revenue taxes and fees for transportation needs.

Dornink said he agrees with the Republicans and their 10-year plan that would take care of transportation without raising gas taxes.


Regarding education, Dornink said he thinks unfunded mandates are hurting the local schools.

“The smaller communities are having a difficult time financially because of these mandates,” he said, noting he thinks the teachers, local school boards and parents are best for running the schools instead of people he described as bureaucrats in St. Paul.

Reaching out to constituents

Dornink said he plans to have town hall meetings and attend chamber meetings and others throughout the district so he knows the needs — be it those in a large community or smaller town.

“A senator is supposed to represent the people to the best of his or her ability, and I believe it can happen only if that senator is actively seeking out ideas, expertise and input from the people of the district.”

He said he has a proven track record of working with all types of people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, beliefs and political leanings.

He strives to do the best for the people of the district and is actively seeking the advice and thoughts of the people.

“I don’t care about personal differences and will focus on the job that needs to be done,” Dornink said. “I recognize that the issue at hand is bigger and more important. It takes an individual who is humble, teachable, willing to listen and yet stands on principle, to put politics aside and get important legislation passed.”

Other issues

A proponent of term limits, Dornink said he thinks the original intent of a citizen’s government has been largely lost.

“Political office was never meant to be a career choice,” he said. “Those who were elected to serve were expected to do exactly that — serve. Then, step aside, return to their communities and allow someone else to serve in their place. That way, the elected representatives would not lose touch with the normal, everyday, hardworking family’s priorities.

He said he never wants to forget where he came from and who elected him, and he would not serve more than three terms.

Dornink said he supports an effort to have each bill be voted on individually instead of having a large omnibus bill made up of many smaller bills.

“Politicans will not be able to hide behind a bloated spending bill anymore,” he said. “The best bills will be voted on, and the frivolous ones will be left in the shredding bin, no longer wasting the taxpayers’ money.”

He said he wants to bring tax relief to the hard-working middle class and overtaxed farmers, and wants to work to reform MNsure.