21B candidates talk education, abortion, and more during Monday night forum
Republican Marj Fogelman and DFL candidate Michael Heidelberger were in Worthington Monday night for a public forum where they answered questions submitted by the audience.
WORTHINGTON — A series of candidate forums, hosted by FORWARD Worthington's Governmental Affairs Committee, kicked off last night with the candidates running in District 21B for the Minnesota House of Representatives.
Current Rep. Rod Hamilton’s announcement in early 2022 that he would not seek another term prompted a race between Republican Marj Fogelman, of Fulda, and DFL candidate Michael Heidelberger, of Brewster.
Open to the public and moderated by RadioWorks' Ryan McGaughey, the community gathered last night at the Worthington Event Center to listen to, and ask questions of, candidates ahead of the Nov. 8 election.
Education was a common theme of last night’s forum, with both Heidelberger and Fogelman identifying the topic as a top priority for them, and questions submitted from the audience ranged from school funding to stances on equity vs. equality in the classroom.
On the subject of funding, Heidelberger stated that support through state funding would help to lessen the financial burden placed on local school districts, and brought up the recently failed Round Lake-Brewster school referendum as an example.
“If the legislature would have passed the education bill,” Heidelberger said, speaking on failed efforts to allot some of the state’s surplus towards education , “property taxes would not have gone up near as much as what … they were proposing… In order to provide for our schools, we need to make sure our legislature doesn't gridlock.”
For Fogelman, the issue came down to reassessing the needs of schools and classrooms at the local level, in order to “eliminate waste, fraud and abuse” of funds. She advocated sitting down with superintendents and school board members in order to learn more about where funds are going.
“We don’t need the government’s hand in everything,” Fogelman stated. “We can’t legislate our lives. We can’t legislate our schools. But we need to work together.”
Fogelman offered a similar approach to infrastructure concerns and questions on improving road quality in southwest Minnesota, stating that watching where tax dollars are going was paramount to accountability.
“If it’s all going to administration costs and not on our roads and bridges, then we're all going to suffer for it,” she noted.
Heidelberger used his response time to advocate for investment in public transportation, stating that the biggest cause of damage to roads is “actually using them.”
“We are the only first-world country that does not have a vast public transportation system,” Heidelberger said. “I don't see a reason why we couldn't just hop on a train and go to the cities instead of driving ourselves.”
He went on to note that according to a recent study conducted by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, a majority of local county roads are in “pretty good” health at the moment.
Questions on how to support workforce development in southwest Minnesota were also brought forth as a subject of discussion during Monday’s forum. Heidelberger proposed the development of trade schools in the area as a way to attract residents and create opportunities for building skills needed in the workforce.
Meanwhile, Fogelman advocated for lowering taxes and regulations on businesses as a way to create a more welcoming environment for workers.
“We have states all around us that are lowering taxes and are welcoming new businesses and new residents,” she said. “They're leaving Minnesota because we are so overtaxed and so overregulated.”
Support for collective bargaining and the right to unionize was also proposed by one audience member. While Fogelman noted unions were an area she would have to learn more about prior to answering, Heidelberger stated he believed people should be able to unionize.
“Even if you're not part of a union, unions help the average person,” he said, listing child labor laws, the 40-hour work week, and health insurance as by-products of union efforts.
Though Heidelberger and Fogelman found common ground on topics like proposing term limits on elected officials and keeping omnibus bills out of the state legislature, one area where their difference of opinion was most evident was on the subject of abortion.
Fogelman has continually proclaimed herself as a voice for conservative Christian values throughout her campaign, and when asked about her views on abortion, said that as a Christian, she was proud to identify as pro-life.
“I believe that abortion is wrong,” Fogelman stated. “...I believe that it’s murder.”
Heidelberger highlighted that while he will never be in the position to make a personal decision about abortion, he didn’t agree with legislating on this issue on the basis of religious objection.
“You can’t just take your Christian values and put them upon other people,” he said, noting that not all religions view abortion through the lens of Christians. “...This is not about life and death. This is about the freedom to choose your own life. If you want freedom of religion, and freedom from religion, you need to respect the other religions as well.”
Monday night’s forum closed out with a last question on abortion, but next week, Congressional District 1 candidates Brad Finstad and Jeff Ettinger will be at the Worthington Event Center to answer questions during the second forum hosted by FORWARD Worthington.