Politicians remember former Sen. Win Borden’s good, bad times

Borden in 2008

By Mike O’Rourke, Brainerd Dispatch

Win Borden, a former state senator whose career included both great success and serious setbacks, has died at age 70.

In recent years he lived, farmed and wrote from the 1929 wood-heated farmhouse he was raised in near Merrifield, north of Brainerd.

A fellow freshman senator with Borden was Roger Moe of Erskine, who served as DFL Senate majority leader for more than 20 years. “He was well-prepared and a very effective legislator,” Moe said of Borden. “Within relatively short order he became an assistant majority leader under (then-Senate Majority Leader) Nick Coleman.”

Borden’s first win at the polls was in 1970, when he upset 26-year-old Sen. Gordon Rosenmeier of Little Falls.

After winning re-election in 1972 and 1976, Borden surprised many by resigning to accept a leadership role with the Minnesota Association of Commerce and Industry, a forerunner of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.

Former lawmaker Don Samuelson of Brainerd said he thought Borden was disappointed when he failed to win the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party endorsement for the U.S. House when Rep. Bob Bergland, D-Minn., was appointed secretary of agriculture in the mid-1970s.

While serving the chamber, Borden hosted a daily radio program heard on more than 80 Minnesota stations.

Trouble came to Borden’s life in 2004, when he was sentenced and later served one year at a minimum security federal prison in Yankton, S.D., for failing to file federal income tax returns.

In an editor’s note in Borden’s book, “Ruminations — Memories and Tales of a Furrowed Mind,” Pete Holste wrote that Borden’s problems with the Internal Revenue Service were preceded by mental health problems and a pattern of alcohol abuse.

“Obviously, there were some difficulties in his life,” Moe said. “I think, though, he tried to come to grips with that. I enjoyed his books that he wrote later in life. He was a bright guy. Whatever he took on, he took on with real zest.”

In a 2008 interview with the Brainerd Dispatch, Borden reflected on a career in which he met such luminaries as Hubert H. Humphrey and Charles Lindbergh. He also summed up thoughts about his own political future.

“Thoroughly enjoyed it,” he said. “Never want to repeat it.”