DeGree, Lohmer to face off again in District 39B race

Tom DeGree, DFL-er from Lake Elmo

Kathy Lohmer, Republican from Stillwater

Lake Elmo businessman hopes to unseat two-term legislator

Tom DeGree, a small-business owner and teacher from Lake Elmo, recently announced he will again try to unseat state Rep. Kathy Lohmer, R-Stillwater, also from Lake Elmo, in the District 39B race.

Lohmer, who owns a financial planning business with her husband, Greg, says her accomplishments put her in a strong position to keep her spot in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

“I believe that my work ethic and integrity have earned the voters of the district’s confidence,” Lohmer said in an emailed response. “I will continue to work hard and keep my commitment to fiscal responsibility and limited and responsible government.”

The district includes a portion of Stillwater, Lake Elmo and Bayport, as well as Grant, Pine Springs and Oak Park Heights.

In the 2012 election, DeGree, a DFLer, garnered nearly 47 percent of votes to Lohmer’s about 53 percent. 

“Last time, people got to know my name,” he said, adding that that recognition could help put him ahead this time around.

As he stated in his campaign announcement video: “I understand the process, and I understand what it takes to win.”

Lohmer and DeGree each received the support of the majority of delegates at their respective political party caucuses in February. 

DeGree said he tends to be more moderate in some ways, due to his varied work experience. He touted running his business with “Democratic principles” -- paying his employees well and offering benefits -- in order to reduce employee turnover. He also expressed support for keeping taxes reasonable, so as not to hamper business growth.

Tied into boosting economic development is supporting education, said DeGree, who’s been a fourth-grade teacher for 20 years.

He’s seen school administrations strapped for funds and the number of students in his classroom has grown. He said he wants to make sure quality schools and education are preserved.

“As somebody who has a dual life as a small-business owner and a teacher, I think I come in with a business knowledge and an education knowledge that I can offer the district and the state,” he said.

His background in environmental education and conservation could come in handy in dealing with Lake Elmo’s water supply issues, making sure such contamination isn’t allowed to happen again, he said.

He claims Lohmer struggles to bend the ear of the Democratic majority at the Capitol, due to her ties to the Tea Party and its issues.

“When she goes to the Capitol, I don’t know if she has a voice with the Democrats that are in charge,” he said.

Lohmer, who noted she’s in the midst of a “busy” Legislative session, said her record displays the opposite. She said she’s collaborated with DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and other city and county leaders to draw developments key to boosting business and growth locally.

She said she helped facilitate the building of the new Highway 36 bridge across the St. Croix River, assisted in gathering funds for Oak Park Heights to relocate utilities and was instrumental in bringing trucking company Valley Cartage to Lake Elmo with the help of local politicians, including Mayor Mike Pearson.

She said she helped guarantee millions in funding for MN Adult and Teen Challenge, a recovery program.

“When the current majority took those funds away, I was able to work in a bipartisan fashion to restore that funding and am thankful to Governor Dayton for his help on that issue,” she said.

As the main caregiver to her son, who was diagnosed with spina bifida, Lohmer says she understands many of the ins-and-outs of the health care system. According to her website, she supports the deregulation of health care, keeping health care in the private sector and maintaining the privacy and security of patients.

Lohmer said she’s currently working with state Sen. Karin Housely, R-St. Mary’s Point, lobbying for $4 million Lake Elmo requested to pay for water utility improvements.

“I have worked with members on the other side of the aisle on issues that are very important in my district and when it means having a Democrat author on a bill to make sure that it gets a hearing, that is what I will do,” Lohmer said.

Kaitlyn Roby can be reached at 651-748-7814 and Follow her at

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