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Collin Peterson meets new constituents in visit to Slayton

Minnesota 7th District Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat, talks Friday afternoon with new constituents gained through redistricting in an event at Slayton's Pizza Ranch.

SLAYTON -- In a room partially populated by farmers who have worked on machinery all of their lives, U.S. House of Representatives Collin Peterson mentioned a power problem with his 1967 Bonanza airplane and immediately the troubleshooting started. Has he checked the alternator? Wiring? Battery?

Peterson flew his plane into Slayton Friday afternoon to visit with his new constituents in Murray County. The recent redistricting added Murray, Pipestone and parts of Cottonwood County to his 7th Congressional District, so he left Washington Friday and flew to Pipestone before stopping in Slayton. Next on his list was a stop in Windom.

"I'm checking out my new territory," he joked.

Approximately 20 people -- farmers, county commissioners, medical personnel and city officials -- stopped in at the Pizza Ranch to hear Peterson speak and ask him questions about the farm bill, gas prices, Medicare and bipartisan bickering.

Peterson grew up on a farm in Detroit Lakes, was a business owner and spent 10 years in the U.S. Senate before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1990. His district reaches from the Canadian border in the north, along the North and South Dakota borders almost to Iowa.

"I fly my airplane around," he said. "If I had to drive around this district, I'd never get anyplace."

As the ranking member of the House Committee on Agriculture, it is hard enough, he admitted, to get anything done in the political climate these days because of power struggles between Republicans and Democrats, adding that many people want to weigh in on the farm bill.

"A lot of city folks who have no idea what happens in these small, rural communities," he explained.

Peterson admitted to being pessimistic about several subjects brought up by he and his audience. Nothing would be done about the deficit until after the election, he said, due to political bickering, even if the government and military were abolished.

"Everyone agrees we have to do something. We just can't come to an agreement about how to do it," he stated.

Former District 22 Sen. Jim Vickerman asked if Peterson could do anything to get gas prices down. Peterson replied that not much could be done unless laws changed in the future markets.

"The truth is, there isn't much we can do about it," he said. "All this talk about politicians saying they are going to lower gas prices is a bunch of nonsense. ... We could drill everyplace in the U.S. that there is oil, do all this stuff, and it wouldn't amount to a hill of beans."

The passive money in the future markets makes up 70 percent of the markets, which does not work, he said. He tried to pass a bill limiting the amount, but couldn't get it through the Senate.

"They howled like crazy," he added.

A bill finally did get passed, but is now tied up in court.

"Wall Street has spent $350 million trying to undo what we did," Peterson stated.

Republicans try to blame it on Obama, he said, which is nonsense -- as Newt Gingrich's promise to get gas prices down to $2.50, he added.

The only way to stop the political bickering is to bring in more moderate people, Peterson explained, but he didn't think things were going to sort themselves out anytime soon.

"It's going to go on for a while," he admitted.

He also said Wall Street did not learn anything during their crisis because the government bailed them out --something he voted against.

"Do you have any good news for us?" Murray County Commissioner Bill Sauer asked.

"I'm very pessimistic," Peterson replied. "I've never seen anything like this. We've got to get control of this. Maybe after the election things will sort themselves out."

Everyone would have to pay more taxes, he stated, not just the rich people. There simply aren't enough rich people, he added.

After short discussions about Medicare, land prices and the -- in his opinion -- unlikely possibility of war with Iran, Peterson wrapped up the discussion so he could head back to his airplane.

"I look forward to having you guys in the 7th District," he said with a smile. "I think you'll get along fine with the rest of us."

Daily Globe Reporter Justine Wettschreck can be reached at 376-7322.