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DFL candidate Tom DeGree announces his candidacy for the Minnesota House Thursday, Dec. 15, in Lake Elmo.
DFL candidate Tom DeGree announces his candidacy for the Minnesota House Thursday, Dec. 15, in Lake Elmo.

DeGree seeking to challenge Lohmer in Minn. House

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Woodbury Minnesota 8420 City Centre Drive 55125

Tom DeGree recalled growing up in a Democratic family surrounded by Republican neighbors.

Despite political differences, everyone seemed to get along, he said.

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"I grew up in a place where people compromised," the Lake Elmo man said.

DeGree, a fourth-grade teacher and Minneapolis café owner, said he hopes to carry that sense of cooperation to the Minnesota House during an event Thursday when he announced his candidacy for House District 56A.

Reading from a statement, DeGree remarked on Republicans' "refusal to compromise."

"We can do better than this," he said. "And that's why I'm running."

DeGree looks to run against Rep. Kathy Lohmer, R-Lake Elmo, who was elected in 2010 after defeating former Democratic Rep. Julie Bunn. He already has competition for the DFL nomination - Woodbury's Ann Marie Metzger filed paperwork with the state last week to run in the district - though the political landscape is not yet set in stone.

Judges are expected to release new House and Senate districts in Feburary; the state re-draws district lines every 10 years. The courts were forced to finish the process after Minnesota Republicans and Democrats differed on how those lines should be drawn.

Regardless of how those lines are drawn, DeGree said he is confident that he would face Lohmer - if he receives his party's nomination - since they live close enough to each other.

During his speech to campaign supporters Thursday, DeGree focused on education issues and his experience as a small business owner. The Hill-Murray graduate told supporters he bears the full gravity of situations, whether it's a classroom of fourth graders or employees at his café.

"I take great responsibility - a responsibility to carry it forward," he said.

DeGree spoke only briefly after the announcement about Lohmer, saying his family has known her and that he finds her amicable. Still, he criticized what he described as a tendency to vote in lock-step with the GOP.

He said that while he would likely vote along with Democrats on matters, his small business experience would influence his approach.

"I consider myself an independent voice," DeGree said.

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Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker
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