DFLer Fontaine, Republican Johnson emerge in District 1

    Over the weekend, the 2016 race for the Minnesota District 1 Senate seat, which is being vacated by longtime DFLer LeRoy Stumpf of Plummer, who’s retiring, came into sharper focus, as a Republican candidate and Democratic candidate emerged.

    At the DFL Multi-County Convention in Thief River Falls on Saturday, Kip Fontaine announced his candidacy for the District 1 seat. Also over the weekend, East Grand Forks attorney Mark Johnson received the Republican Party’s endorsement at their multi-county convention in Newfolden. During the endorsement process at the convention, Johnson quickly emerged from a pack of Republican candidates seeking the party’s District 1 endorsement, including Crookston Mayor Gary Willhite.

    “Northwestern Minnesota needs an advocate in Senate District 1 who is able to fight for the unique interests and priorities of this area,” Johnson said in a statement. “As a home owner, small business owner, and father of three, I share many of the same concerns SD1 residents have. I want to go to St. Paul to ensure we are effectively represented.”

    Johnson and his wife, Skyler, live in East Grand Forks with their three children. Johnson and his wife own Sage Legal, an East Grand Forks law firm, and he is also an owner of Johnson Concrete Construction, LLC based in Mentor.

    Fontaine, of Mentor, is the only DFL candidate to announce his intentions to succeed Stumpf, the longest-tenured senator in St. Paul.

    “As a longtime resident of northwestern Minnesota, I want to wish Senator Stumpf a congratulations and a well­-deserved thank you for his long years of service,” Fontaine said in a statement. “If elected, I will work to continue his legacy to serve as your state senator. As a problem solver and consensus builder myself, I look forward to finding solutions that will enhance the quality of life in northwest Minnesota and move our state forward.”

    Fontaine grew up in Red Lake Falls and graduated from Lafayette High School. He graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1981 from Concordia College with a BA degree in Religion and Business Administration. He attended law school at the University of Minnesota, where he graduated Cum Laude in 1985.

    He was appointed assistant Polk County attorney in Crookston, where he served until January of 1993. Fontaine was then appointed Clearwater County Attorney in Bagley, being re-­elected from 1994 to 2006. In 2007 he was hired by the Minnesota Public Defender’s Office as the managing attorney in Thief River Falls. He currently manages Public Defender Offices in Thief River Falls and Crookston. Fontaine practices law in all of the county seats in District 1.

    He and his wife Sheila have been married for nearly 29 years, and have three children, Karli, Keaton, and Kael. They have made their home in Mentor, on the former Ulland’s Campground, started by Fontaine’s grandparents in 1964.