Meet Prinsburg, Minnesota's most conservative city
If you wanted to find the most conservative city in Minnesota, you'd probably start by looking in the sixth congressional district, the area right above Minneapolis that's still represented by Rep. Michele Bachmann and has a large evangelical population.
Surprisingly, however, you'd be pretty far away. In fact, according to newly released data from the analytics firm Clarity Campaign Labs, Minnesota's most conservative city is Prinsburg, a tiny city located about 90 miles due west of Minneapolis.
"Oh yeah, it's real small," says Harvey Van Eps, a 50-year resident of the city who's also served as mayor for the past two decades. "But we're very strong, with our own private school. We have two churches...we try to, basically, run a quite tight ship on keeping the yards cosmetically neat and housing cosmetically neat and basically try to keep our taxes very much in line."
What stands out first in the city are the two, large Christian reform churches for a population of less than 500 people. That religious dedication doesn't just end inside the church, though. It can be seen across Prinsburg, even on the city's sign, which reads "Prinsburg: The Lord is My Shepherd." And on the Kandiyohi County website, the city is described as a place where "faith and family are very important."
Van Eps said those sorts of conservative values influence how he and his council run the town.
"We do run it to be conservative," Van Eps said. "The policies - we're not letting casinos or anything like that or bars or liquor stores. And we have a policy that yards should be neat, and once we got into this groove of everything being neat and clean, the guys with a ratty yard - we'll tell him to clean things up and normally he will."
But the church isn't the only thing that influences the city's residents. Sen. Lyle Koenen (DFL-Clara City), who represents Prinsburg, has visited the city since he was a child, growing up only a few miles away. And when he stops in now to talk to residents, he doesn't just hear about social issues, but fiscal ones, too.
"When I come through town, I always hear a mixture of things," Koenen says. "And it can be abortion or marriage issues. But a lot of taxes, and regulation, too. Mostly to be left alone."
Koenen says that while he may not agree with the residents on most issues, he's always impressed by just how dedicated they are to their beliefs.
"I know me, running as a Democrat, isn't real high on their lists, but I will say that the people in town there know why they're conservatives," Koenen said. "Sometimes you get people who go either way who aren't really sure. But in this case, they know why they're conservatives."
In the 2012 election, more than 90 percent of Prinsburg's voters cast their presidential ballots for Mitt Romney, and in every other race that pitted a Republican against a Democrat, more than 75 percent leaned towards the GOP.
Clarity Campaigns Lab determined Prinsburg's conservative credentials by using a seven-question survey to get voters' views, combined with its own models and the voter file from the data and technology firms TargetSmart and NGP Van.
Minnesota's most liberal city, meanwhile, was Minneapolis, a city that, by all accounts, is more well-known than Prinsburg.
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