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McFeely: Dilworth state representative Paul Marquart won't seek reelection

Longtime legislator cites spending more time with family and grandchildren as reason, says tough rural environment for DFLers didn't factor into decision

Rep. Paul Marquart
Rep. Paul Marquart of Dilworth.
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DILWORTH, Minn. — Rep. Paul Marquart, who's represented northwestern Minnesota in the state Legislature for more than two decades, won't seek reelection in 2022.

“I want to spend more time with my family and grandchildren," Marquart said. "It's time."

Marquart, a DFLer from Dilworth, represents District 4B in the House of Representatives, which includes parts of Clay, Norman and Becker counties. He was first elected to the Legislature in 2000 after serving on the Dilworth city council for two years and as mayor of Dilworth for 11 years.

He is a longtime social studies teacher in the Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton school district, a job he said he'll continue for at least another school year.

"A huge thank-you to my family, constituents and students who gave me the high honor and privilege to serve my community and state for 35 years," Marquart said.

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Marquart, 65, has been the chair of the House Tax Committee since 2019. He also serves on the Ways and Means Committee and the Education Finance Committee.

He previously served as chair of the Education Finance and Property Tax committees.

"The most enjoyable thing I've done was going door to door," Marquart said. "Since COVID hit, I haven't been able to do that, and I've really missed it. But the thing I'm proudest of, and it goes back to knocking on doors, is that I know my constituents and they know me. I never lost sight of who I was serving.

"By going door to door, I got to know them and they got to know me. Even if they didn't always agree with me on everything, they knew where I was coming from, and we could talk about it."

Marquart beat Republican Brian Anderson in 2020 by a 52.7% to 47.7% margin, one of a few rural Democrats to win election outside of college towns. Marquart's winning margins have diminished over the years as rural areas have trended strongly Republican.

In 2008, Marquart beat Dayna Olson 74.87% to 25.07%. As recently as 2014, Marquart defeated Jared LaDuke 65.8% to 34.1%.

But Marquart said the tougher atmosphere for rural DFLers didn't factor into his decision to not seek reelection.

"It's always been a difficult district. George Bush beat Al Gore comfortably in the district in 2000, so nothing has really changed there. That didn't really have a bearing on my decision," Marquart said. "For rural Minnesota DFLers, it's tough right now. But in some cases the GOP is overreaching and I'm interested to see how voters react to that."

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Marquart said two legislative successes he's most proud of were helping lower property taxes for rural residents and helping pass the Ag2School tax credit. The latter lowered the tax burden on farmers when school districts would ask voters to approve school bonds.

Marquart was chair of the Education Finance Committee in 2013 when lawmakers passed legislation to pay for all-day, everyday kindergarten.

"I was a part of things in those cases. I supported them and fought for them, but it took a lot of other people to get them done," Marquart said. "I'm proud I was able to represent the district. I felt like I knew the people in the district and went to St. Paul to represent their interests."

The 2022 legislative session opens at noon on Jan. 31.

Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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