Loonan and Mortensen

Challenger Bob Loonan, left, and incumbent Rep. Erik Mortensen (R-Shakopee) participated in a House District 54A forum. The candidates discussed a variety of issues, as well as their differences in communicating with constituents, working with fellow legislators and accomplishments in office.

This year’s House District 54A race is a familiar one to many Shakopee voters, with Republican candidates Bob Loonan and incumbent Rep. Erik Mortensen facing each other in the primaries for a third time.

Loonan served two terms in the Minnesota House before losing the Republican primary for District 55A in 2018 to Mortensen. The two faced each other a second time in 2020 when Mortensen defeated Loonan in the Republican primary with 55% of the votes to Loonan’s 45%.

Mortensen then went on to win the 2020 general election with 47.4% of the votes compared with Democratic candidate Brad Tabke’s 45% and Legal Marijuana Now candidate Ryan Martin’s 7.4%. Tabke served one term in the Minnesota House before being defeated by Mortensen in 2020.

The winner of this year’s Republican primary — in a new district slightly modified by redistricting — will face Tabke and Martin again in the general election.

In March, the Scott County GOP did not endorse either candidate during a party convention. According to party spokesperson Dale Even, delegates went through three rounds of voting with Mortensen leading after each round but not getting to the 60% threshold required for an endorsement.

This also occurred in the 2020 primary, with no endorsement given to either candidate.

Tension between the candidates emerged after a county GOP official filed a complaint accusing Loonan of breaking state law by allegedly distributing campaign material that claimed he was endorsed by the Republican Party. A three-judge panel at the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings has heard the case but has yet to issue a ruling.

Mortensen was called as the sole plaintiff witness in the hearing, according to hearing documents. Loonan said that, from what he knows, the material in question appears to be from his reelection campaign in 2016 when he was the GOP-endorsed candidate.

For this article, both candidates declined to participate in a phone interview but agreed to respond to a set of prepared questions via email.

If reelected, Mortensen said he would prioritize reeling in government spending, slashing tax rates and passing Stand Your Ground and constitutional carry laws. He also looks to pass his so-called Never Again bill — related to the COVID pandemic — “to make sure no governor can ever again unilaterally control the state and politicize an emergency,” he wrote in an email to the paper.

“By doing this, we give families a more stable economic environment, and we protect our individual liberties,” he added in the email.

Loonan said his main priority if elected would be the economy. “It is the most important issue I hear from voters and my number one priority,” he said in an email. “Government has played a role in increasing the cost of everything. We need much less regulating and let the natural market bring costs down through competition.”

He added that he hopes to also “toughen up penalties” on repeat criminal offenders and to address issues in education. “Our schools are failing. The education union is hurting our kids. Teachers tell me that,” Loonan wrote. “Parents need to have viable options for educating their kids. Increasing parental control will help greatly.”