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Senate District 5: Bussman says it's time for change in the GOP

Bussman is the endorsed Republican for the seat, besting State Sen. Paul Utke and earning the honor before Dale A. P. Anderson entered the race. And this, despite never before seeking office, save as a member of the board of directors for the Sylvan Shores Property Owners Association.

Bret Bussman speaks while seated at a table
Bret Bussman speaks about his plans should he be elected to the Minnesota Legislature representing Senate District 5 during a July 7, 2022, interview at the Brainerd Dispatch.
Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — Bret Bussman leaves little to the imagination when it comes to what he supports politically — his numbered list is emblazoned in white type in the middle of a black polo shirt he wears while campaigning.

And that willingness to boldly proclaim his stances on any number of issues would serve constituents better at the state Capitol for the newly formed Senate District 5, the 60-year-old husband and father of three said. It’s why he’s challenging the Republican incumbent whose seat was included as part of the redistricting in the Aug. 9 primary election.

“‘Let’s keep electing the same Republicans over and over again, and maybe things will change.’ You know, the thing about doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results — it’s insanity,” Bussman said during a July 7 interview. “We need to get rid of politicians. We need to have people who are going to speak up for the people and do the people's work, not their work.”

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This appeal to party delegates worked — Bussman is the endorsed Republican for the seat, besting State Sen. Paul Utke and earning the honor before Dale A. P. Anderson entered the race. And this, despite never before seeking office, save as a member of the board of directors for the Sylvan Shores Property Owners Association.

A 20-year active U.S. Army retiree whose career moved him to numerous places across the country and world, Bussman now calls Browerville home and works at Camp Ripley. His decision to run for office is inspired by his military service, he said — an extension of his oath.

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Bret Bussman headshot
Bret Bussman.
Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch

“I'm an Army veteran — been to the Gulf, Middle East. And part of my oath of office was to, you know, defend the country against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” Bussman said. “And the domestic enemies are out of control and we need to get them under (control). We need to take our country back.”

To Bussman, the domestic enemies are those part of the “fringe left,” who he said push for things like a new world order and the Green New Deal. He believes the Republican Party is also moving to the left.

“Its leaders are filled with the same selfish ideas that the leadership of the Democratic Party has. In some ways, there's little difference between the two parties,” he said. “We know that Republican voters and other conservatives in Minnesota want a true conservative vision for our state.”

Bussman, who styles himself a Christian constitutional conservative, believes he has that vision. His list of what he supports, from Nos. 1 through 7, includes voting integrity, voter ID, non-electronic, no ballot harvesting or mail-in voting; pro-life; constitutional carry and stand your ground; balanced budget; school choice; tax relief for seniors; and term limits.

Fixing what Bussman said is a broken electoral system is a top priority of his. He believes the 2020 election was stolen and cited a litany of sources for this claim, from the recent Dinesh D’Souza movie “2000 Mules” to reports produced by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and Seth Keshel, a former Army captain who travels the country presenting his voting trend research as proof of fraud.

Although Bussman said his own analysis shows fraud wasn’t a problem in this area, he believes drop boxes in the Twin Cities metro allow too much room for meddling in a way that can impact the outcome of the election for the entire state.

When asked what evidence exists to support the idea of a stolen election — despite a multitude of audits, investigations and lawsuits failing to produce any, amid growing evidence the vast majority of top Trump administration officials believed the outcome of the election was legitimate — Bussman persisted.

“I don’t think people want to see it (the evidence of fraud),” he said. “ … Look at the math. The math speaks for itself.”

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Abortion is another key issue for Bussman, who described the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down Roe vs. Wade as a big win. Although Minnesota protects the right to an abortion in its state constitution, Bussman said he would seek other legislative solutions to move the state toward an anti-abortion stance. This includes allowing taxpayers to opt out of their tax dollars being spent on anything related to abortions.

“I'm all for my body, my choice, and I absolutely believe in that. I believe that. But when a woman has another life inside of her, it's no longer just her body. So that's how I see that. Now the only exception would be to save the life of the mother. I’m not going to exchange one life for another — that’s not my area. That’s somebody else’s area,” Bussman said, gesturing to the sky.

Bussman said he’d like to see the state truly balance its budget by no longer spending beyond its means and overtaxing Minnesotans. People should be frustrated by the massive budget surplus left on the table by the Legislature this summer when they failed to reach an agreement on multiple bills before the session ended, he said.

A map of Minnesota Senate District 5 after 2022 redistricting
A map of Minnesota Senate District 5 after 2022 redistricting.
Contributed

He would seek to eliminate the tax on Social Security benefits and the state income tax, instead implementing a flax tax based on what people buy rather than what they earn. And on behalf of senior citizens, he would pursue legislation to relieve them of paying taxes on homestead property once they begin to collect Social Security.

Bussman believes the state could save money by eliminating bloated bureaucracy, including the Minnesota Department of Education and the Department of Natural Resources. He said too many people confuse the rules they set as laws — the domain of the Legislature alone — and their regulatory role would be better left to local communities.

He believes the state should provide the same amount of educational funding for all children, whether they attend public schools or opt for private or religious institutions, or are home-schooled. And parents should have greater input into curriculum that is best left to the basics, dropping things like critical race theory, sex education and what he characterized as false American history.

Bussman sees little room for compromise with other lawmakers on the issues over which he feels strongly, finding it hard to imagine how the Senate could reach unanimous agreement across party lines on any bills before them. He said omnibus bills have too many different issues crammed together, making it nearly impossible to support everything within them.

So what role would he play in a divided state Legislature, should it remain so after the November election?

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“I’m gonna shine the light on things. I’m gonna shine the light on these backdoor deals. And if anybody approaches me about some of this crapola, I'm not gonna — I'm gonna put it out on WCCO or your newspaper or wherever,” Bussman said. “I won't stand for it. So, I'm gonna be loud. I am. Because people are sick and tired of what's going on, really. This is — we’re in bad shape.”

CHELSEY PERKINS, community editor, may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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