Current School Board chairman seeks GOP endorsement

Three years after Matt Little used a position in Lakeville government as a springboard to land a role in state government, Zach Duckworth will attempt to do the same — with the aim of unseating Little.

Duckworth, chair of the Lakeville Board of Education, announced in an interview with the newspaper that he will seek the Republican endorsement to run for the Senate District 58 seat currently held by Little.

Little, the former mayor of Lakeville and a member of the DFL party, is seeking re-election. If Duckworth is Little’s opponent in the November general election, Lakeville will play a key role in deciding an outcome that could have statewide implications.

“The people of Lakeville have shown that they like and appreciate Matt,” Duckworth said. “I would hope to have similar well-wishers when it comes to my time on the School Board.”

Little defeated Republican Tim Pitcher, a former Farmington City Council member, in 2016 by less than 400 votes, getting 50.43 percent of the 45,279 votes cast. Both Little and Pitcher ran unopposed in the respective party primaries.

Republicans currently hold a 52 percent to 48 percent edge in the state Senate. District 58 was a key district in the 2016 election, and the same is expected to hold true in 2020. The district includes Lakeville, Farmington, Dakota County townships to the south and a portion of the city of Northfield.

“I’m becoming more and more aware of how significant this race will be statewide,” Duckworth said. “So we will need to do a lot of fundraising so we can get our message out there.”

Duckworth said he considers running for the state Senate as the logical next step in his efforts to serve his community, adding that his quest is not simply about replacing a Democrat with a Republican.

“For me it’s not as much about the party as it is trying to help at a time of extreme partisanship,” Duckworth said. “I’m not as much running against Matt as I am running for the people of our district.

“I want to look for solutions that benefit everybody rather than to continue to be defined by party politics. I’m not a party politics guy. I prefer finding the common ground. Maybe we all need to give a little bit to make progress.”

Along with serving on the School Board, Duckworth is a real estate agent and a small business owner. He also serves in the Army National Guard and as a volunteer firefighter.

“I’m very proud of my record of service, not only for my country but for this community,” Duckworth said. “I’m proud of the way we were able to get things done on the School Board.

“It takes a lot of work to get six people to agree on something, and we were able to get that done last year in a significant way with the referendum.”

As for the specifics of his campaign, Duckworth said he will focus on the issues that impact families.

“Education is a huge one, of course,” he said. “To be able to help on a state level to increase the money for education so our kids can get the best public education they can.

“I work a lot with people looking to buy homes, and two of things they typically struggle with are health costs and childcare costs. So, from a state level, looking at what we can do to help people with those burdens.

“And as a veteran and a volunteer firefighter I am passionate about doing whatever we can to help our veterans and our emergency responders.”

While he enjoys a certain level of name recognition in Lakeville, Duckworth knows it will be crucial for him to campaign and impress voters throughout the district.

“I’m kind of old fashion in that regard — shake hands and rub elbows,” Duckworth said. “I’m going to do what I can to meet folks, hear what they have to say and figure out ways that I can help them.’’

Dean Spiros can be reached at lakeville.thisweek@ecm-inc.com.

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