McFeely: Marquart retirement a blow for moderation

Dilworth state representative a DFLer, but his views are based in pragmatism and common sense

Minnesota Rep. Paul Marquart
Minnesota Rep. Paul Marquart of Dilworth.
Forum News Service

MOORHEAD — Rep. Paul Marquart and I don't agree on everything. What fun is that? An enjoyable sport is calling a longtime, popular state legislator and asking, "What the hell you doing?" I did that with Marquart when he opposed the Fargo-Moorhead diversion.

At the time, Marquart was publicly knocking the much-needed project that will divert Red Rver floodwaters around the metro area because, he said, he didn't believe upstream residents in his district were being properly represented. He was siding with fellow Democrats U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, who opposed the project for differing reasons.

"They feel like this is being shoved down their throats and I have a hard time disagreeing," Marquart said. "Fargo is running roughshod over everybody on this."

He was wrong, of course, and I told Marquart that. If Fargo-Moorhead goes under, thousands of his constituents would see their jobs go under. Marquart is from Dilworth and his District 4B covers parts of Clay, Becker and Norman counties. The economic ripple to to those areas would be profound.

The key, though, is that Marquart and I always had civil discussions. He explained his position, which made sense from his viewpoint. His job, as a state representative, was to represent his constituents. I understood it, but disagreed. I explained my position, which had the big picture at the forefront. Marquart understood it, but believed there were different ways to achieve Fargo-Moorhead's goal of a diversion.


Paul, as always, was a voice of moderation and common sense. When we talked politics, which was often, his focus was certainly left-leaning as a DFLer, but always founded in pragmatism and oriented toward results. It was never ideological.

So Marquart's decision to not run for re-election this fall is a sad development for a fellow moderate lefty. Marquart is 65 and has been in St. Paul for 20 years. He wants to spend more time with his family and, particularly, his grandchildren. He's earned that.

The tough part is there'll be one fewer reasonable voice in the Capitol, a place rapidly becoming populated by the loony-tune right and the fantastical left. One side is opposed to democracy and modern medicine, the other believes if we all just hold hands and sing "Kumbaya" that big-city shootings will stop.

Marquart represented the middle ground in a rural district that's fully Trumpified. That he continued to win re-election isn't surprising if you know him and the value he placed on getting to know those he represented. Marquart is a well-liked and respected politician by all but the most partisan right-wingers.

It's likely a Trump wannabe will replace him, given the demographics of the district. Republicans will celebrate grabbing another safe seat; that's what political parties do.

But Marquart was never a wild-eyed liberal, hell-bent on defunding the police or disrupting a pipeline. He was a middle-of-the-road DFLer looking for fair ways to make passing bonds in rural school districts easier.

That clear-eyed practicality will be missed. It's a dwindling commodity among modern politicians.

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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