District 1 Congressional candidates weigh in on everything from Roe v. Wade to immigration and climate change
The Globe asked candidates to respond to several questions as they seek majority vote in next week's Primary election.
WORTHINGTON — Two races involving Minnesota’s First Congressional District are on the Aug. 9 ballot. Four candidates seek to win the special election to fill the remainder of the late Rep. Jim Hagedorn’s term, who died in February.
Jeff Ettinger is the DFL candidate on the ballot, while Brad Finstad is the Republican. Haroun McClellan and Richard B. Reisdorf are on the ballot as candidates for the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party and Legal Marijuna Now Party, respectively.
Aug. 9 also marks the Primary, where voters are asked to choose a party representative for the Nov. 8 General election. Ettinger, Finstad, and Reisdorf have each filed. Joining the field of DFL candidates on the primary ballot is James Rainwater and George H. Kelberer. Republican Jeremey Munson is also vying for the seat, as well as Finstad and Brian Abrahamson, who is running on the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party.
The Globe asked candidates to respond to questions about their stance on various issues and their priorities. Kalberer and McClellan did not respond.
If elected, how would you address the increased cost of living in the U.S.?
ABRAHAMSON: I believe we need a livable wage that increases at the time people need it. Basically, (we) need a cost of living increase included in people’s paycheck. We don’t need a minimum wage. How about a maximum wage? Inflation is a farce. It’s called price gouging. We need to stop this today.
ETTINGER: I know you feel squeezed by this recent bout of inflation. Everyone in our district has seen their lives get more expensive in the last year. My experience navigating the national economy from my time as leader of Hormel Foods makes me able to be part of the solution to inflation.
Inflation is caused by the imbalance of supply and demand, in this case, set off by the global COVID pandemic and its related shut-downs, work stoppages and changes in demand. The truth is there’s inflation all around the world in places with different policies and economies. Here in the U.S., we need to focus our efforts on where we can make a difference — we can’t address everything at once and we should focus dollars on those truly in need.
So, what can we do about inflation? I’ve got a 10-point plan to fix it by lowering the costs of groceries, gas, energy bills and everyday items that you can find on my website, EttingerForCongress.com.
FINSTAD: We are seeing the dire consequences of the Democrats' one-party rule over our country. All of their failed policies are contributing to the rising costs every southern Minnesotan is suffering from. Their failed energy policies like shutting down oil production and pipelines has prices at the pump and beyond skyrocketing. Their reckless spending and dollar printing created too many dollars chasing too few goods and services. Their policies that created incentives not to work have exacerbated our labor crunch and caused supply chain disruptions.
MUNSON: Inflation is caused by our federal government's endless printing of baseless currency and more than $30 trillion in debt. We need to be honest with ourselves: both Republicans and Democrats have done this. Tough times call for casting difficult votes to restrict spending. I am the only candidate who has vowed not to raise our nation’s debt limit. Taking corrective action now sends a decisive message to begin restoring faith in the U.S. dollar and will begin to curb inflation.
We cannot spend our way out of inflation. Government should live within its means, just like southern Minnesota familes do every month.
RAINWATER: I favor an increased Federal Minimum Wage of $15. The Federal Reserve should make appropriate interest rate adjustments to tame inflation. A temporary removal of the gas tax should be considered. The nation is at a junction of rare occurrences — the tail end of a pandemic that went unmanaged in its first year, the invasion of a democratic European nation by Russia, and the attempted overthrow of our federal election last year. These are not normal events by any stretch of the imagination, and they all have an impact on the U.S. economy. To suggest that one or two policies can make all the bad economic news disappear is naive. It will take some time to recover. It took us four years getting into this situation. It will likely take at least a year to recover. Our best move is to create worker-friendly, job-friendly, and consumer-friendly policies that will expedite our economic recovery.
REISDORF: The federal and state governments must take an active role in addressing inflation by setting controls and encouraging citizens to limit the purchase of luxury items. The businesses which are experiencing huge profits must be investigated and made to limit profits to 10%.
How would you protect agriculture while climate change affects the state?
ABRAHAMSON: We need to invest more into solar, wind and water power. We also need to stop selling Monsanto products, because those products are getting into our air and water and causing cancer across the state, and our country.
ETTINGER: Minnesota is an agriculture state and southern Minnesota was built by farmers. We can help to protect and foster agriculture here by lowering costs for critical goods like fertilizer, leading workforce development initiatives to match workers with the skills they need for local jobs, installing faster broadband in every corner of the district, and lowering healthcare costs for everyone. I don’t believe in the idea of “get big or get out” — we need to support our family farmers now more than ever.
Climate change is an urgent problem, and we have to figure out structural solutions to fight it. I believe we should be creating good jobs by building the future of the energy economy right here in southern Minnesota, from building wind turbines to solar panels to batteries to biofuel.
When I was at Hormel Foods, we worked with farmers on things like restorative agriculture that can make our land more resilient to hotter, dryer weather. I’ll support offering credits for farms that adopt green or regenerative practices.
There’s no doubt we’ve faced more extreme weather the last several years. Southern Minnesota can’t wait for Congress to act to protect us from those changes. Things like flood mitigation projects and drought relief to farmers have to happen now. I have experience with flood mitigation and waterway enhancement at the Hormel Foundation, and I look forward to applying that experience in Congress.
FINSTAD: My family and I operate a company focused on precision agriculture. We all want to find ways to produce more with less. We all want to feed the world and pass on the land in a better state than we found it. One size fits all approaches handed down from St. Paul or Washington are not the answer. Policymakers need to work with farmers to find solutions. Policy should be focused on incentives, not punishments and force. While we should always be looking to protect our natural resources, we must also continue to provide food at an affordable price, and maintain our standard of living.
MUNSON: Agriculture is vital to our economy, but more importantly, agriculture is vital to our national security. For this reason, I am committed to ensuring our farm economy thrives. I have worked in several roles in the agriculture industry, including row crop production and working in hog barns, to regulatory trade compliance for a major global food corporation. Our farmers in southern Minnesota feed the world. Congress has a role in ensuring Americans are fed first, and our global trading partners do not starve us through tariffs or through buying our farmland and shipping our food overseas. As a result, farmers are sold farm subsidies in exchange for regulations on their industry. In my role in Congress, I will ensure there is a fair balance of the two. Today, the regulatory burden on farmers is too high for the subsidies paid. We must lower regulations to help the family farm succeed. My wife’s family has farmed here for five generations. I will work to ensure Minnesota’s farm economy is well represented.
RAINWATER: America needs to ensure family and independent farmers continue to thrive. As our national defense policy during the Cold War was to diversify aircraft manufacturing so that no single company's disaster would hinder national security, I believe the nation should maintain a widely diverse network of agricultural suppliers. We cannot live without food, and we need to protect that system of production. By supporting all levels of farming, we are protecting the country from a wide-ranging calamity ... By maintaining a multitude of independent farmers, the nation’s food security can be better shielded from a major catastrophe. In order to assure the foundation for a vibrant agricultural system, we need to fight climate change. The world is all we have ... I fully support regulation that reduces or eliminates pollution. I believe in preservation and conservation of our resources. Once something has been done to damage our environment, it is staggeringly difficult to correct it, as we are witnessing in the current global climate change. A recent National Public Radio article reported that wind power electricity generation exceeded that of coal and nuclear combined. We have just scratched the surface of a new era of electricity generation. Wind, solar, and eventually fusion energy will propel us from the carbon-spewing contaminants of coal and natural gas and the uneasy specter of spent nuclear materials. We must be able to fund research into developing these exciting technologies that will provide not only domestic growth but bolster our national security by becoming energy-independent.
REISDORF: We must convert to diversified agriculture as quickly as possible. Farms must become smaller with more labor intensive methods thereby reducing CO2 generation. Organic farming methods must replace the current industrial model in order to stop the poisoning of the land, water and air, and wetlands need to be restored. We need to become locally self-sufficient in order to lower the price to customers, reduce transportation costs, and provide local food security.
Your stance on current immigration policy, including an adequate path to citizenship?
ABRAHAMSON: I believe there should be a clearer path to citizenship.
ETTINGER: There hasn’t been a meaningful change in the law since the 1980s because of Congress’ inability to compromise. As a result, our immigration system isn’t working like it should, and Congress can’t seem to get anything done to make things better. We need more people with real-life experience to change that, not more career politicians.
Anyone who runs a business knows our district in particular is short on workers it needs to fill our workforce, and our local economy is feeling the impacts, from rising costs to stores and restaurants that are closed more often than they used to be.
We should pass a law to make DACA permanent so children that were brought here and are contributing to our country aren’t thrown out. Then, we need to work on comprehensive immigration reform, which should include enhanced border security.
FINSTAD: First and foremost we must have secure borders. The Biden administration has failed to secure the border and that must change. Policies need to deter illegal immigration and smuggling of all kinds. Our immigration system should be geared to benefiting the United States first. (It) should be based on our workforce needs. We should have a system that is efficient in processing applications.
MUNSON: We are a nation of laws. People come here for opportunity and for the protections of our laws and constitution. We therefore must ensure our border is protected and we have lawful immigration. I support merit-based immigration and a clear pathway to citizenship for those seeking to come to America and have a plan to be contributing members of our society. Illegal entry to our country has created a subclass of workers, which is creating a dangerous rift in our society and we must address it. Congress can no longer look the other way as major corporations continue to break employment laws while taking advantage of their workers. Secure the border. Fix our employment screening. Improve our guest worker program. Implement merit-based immigration like the rest of the western world.
RAINWATER: People entering the U.S. to seek better, safer and more stable lives are the backbone of our nation. I fully support a lenient acceptance policy of those who wish to come here, with the caveat that newcomers should have those basic skills that most Americans should have: A basic command of the English language, simple math skills, some U.S. civics. I think it is reasonable for most new immigrants to be given the opportunities to gain such qualifications before attaining full citizenship. In our rural areas, we see immigrants working in jobs that many citizens shy away from doing. These are hard-working individuals who project the ideals of America itself — work, family, community. We owe them a chance to become citizens.
REISDORF: Immigration policies must be completely revised. Processing must be streamlined while clean and comfortable living quarters are provided for the families and individuals. The issue of refugees must be thoroughly investigated so that the UN can address the causes leading to the necessity for people to leave their country such as war and climate catastrophe.
Thoughts on the SCOTUS overturn of Roe v. Wade, and abortion access in Minnesota?
ABRAHAMSON: I believe making abortions illegal will only open up the possibility for unclean and unsanitary conditions for abortions. It will not stop abortions. We need to stop putting the church and religion ahead of the people.
ETTINGER: The government should not be turning women or their doctors into criminals for making private medical decisions. With its recent ruling, the Supreme Court pulled the rug out from under 50 years of precedent and has created chaos at the federal and state level. To remedy this, the standards of Roe v. Wade should be passed into law by Congress.
FINSTAD: I am pro-life. I believe we must protect life, especially those most vulnerable. I believe it was good to overturn Roe v. Wade. Decisions like this should be made by our elected officials, especially at the state level. Unfortunately in Minnesota, we have now seen a court throw out modest laws that promote life.
MUNSON: I support State’s Rights and I look forward to the Minnesota State legislature debating and passing laws to protect the life of children in our State. We have certain laws which protect children in the womb against murder and vehicular homicide, while other laws which do not. I authored the heartbeat bill, because our laws consider you dead when your heart stops, therefore they should consider you alive when your heart starts. It’s just that simple.
RAINWATER: Women (and men) should have autonomy over their bodies. I believe that laws banning abortion violate the 13th Amendment — the abolition of slavery. Forcing someone to go unwillingly through childbirth constitutes forced involuntary servitude, which is slavery. There is no other way to describe it: Withholding access to family planning and abortion procedures forces a woman to endure a traumatic childbirth, whether she wants it or not. Can you think of any other form of government regulation that is so personal, invasive and fraught with compliance complexities? Do pregnant women need to notify a government registry within 15 days of awareness in order to achieve full compliance so that every possible pregnancy is completely monitored? The government should be in the business of licensing motorists, not motherhood.
REISDORF: Congress must rebuke the Supreme Court and overrule the court’s disastrous overturn of Roe. Six people should not decide for millions in matters of health. Minnesota should remain pro-choice and provide compassionate counseling and treatment.
Explain the No. 1 issue you see facing the district and how you will respond to it:
ABRAHAMSON: Health care is the most important thing. Not everyone has the health care they need and deserve. And definitely not affordable. We need to go to a Medicare for All healthcare program. We can do it, and over time, actually save money. The only ones that believe we can’t are bought by the health care insurance lobbyists.
ETTINGER: The No. 1 issue facing our district is rising costs. I hear this everywhere I go. I think too many people in Congress want to use the issue to play political games, and the last thing our district needs is a career politician and lobbyist that will play the same games as all of the others do already.
I can promise you I will make it my primary mission in Congress to use my experience navigating the national economy from my time as leader of Hormel Foods to be part of the solution to inflation.
I’m a results-oriented business leader from southern Minnesota, so while other people love to talk about problems, I like to focus on solutions. I’ve got a 10-point plan to lower the costs of groceries, gas, energy bills and everyday items that you can find on my website, EttingerForCongress.com. I look forward to bringing that plan with me to Congress on day one.
FINSTAD: The economy and inflation. At the base of our economy is energy, that is a huge cost driver for everything else. Even a few years ago the U.S. was a net energy exporter. Now the Biden administration and the Democrats are begging unfriendly countries to pump more oil to sell to us at a premium. We should be promoting domestic oil production, refinement and transportation. We should also encourage an all of the above energy approach, we have a great ethanol industry in southern Minnesota that must be part of the solution.
MUNSON: Debt, inflation, over-regulation, and the nanny state are all caused by the growth of government. I was drawn into politics because of Obamacare and the growth of government’s involvement in healthcare. I will vote to limit government’s involvement in many aspects of your life. I will follow the Constitution, which limits what Congress can and shall do. I have a strong record of standing on principle and not falling in line behind party leadership. I work across the aisle on many issues of civil rights, criminal justice reform, healthcare reform and licensure reforms. Limited government, more freedom, and a respect for liberty is not a partisan issue.
RAINWATER: I believe the biggest issue facing the First District is confidence in our electoral system. After years of falsly proclaiming illegal voting and election fraud, we need to regain our faith that our electoral system is solid, it works, and it has very little inconsistency. However, we do need to protect the right to vote and not hamper access to do so. Our most sacred function of a democracy is the right of a citizen to vote. That is why it does not require payment, a special identification card, or unreasonable obstacles to exercise our right to vote. Laws that seek to make voting more difficult and only accessible to a privileged group are inherently anti-democratic and run counter to the very ideals of government of the people. Passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act will assure that all Americans are able to vote. Faith in fair and free elections will set the foundation for creating solid government policies and promoting the stability of the nation.
REISDORF: Climate change is the most important issue facing the district, the U.S., and the world. A recent article in Forbes Magazine cited a study which indicated the four most effective actions humans can take to reverse the problem: Do not have that next child — saves 117 tons of CO2; Go without an automobile — saves 5 tons; Stop flying — saves 3 tons; and adopt a plant-based diet — saves 2 tons.
Converting to diversified labor intensive agricultural methods as described above will go a long way to reduce our excessive carbon footprint.
NOTE: Some responses were trimmed to adhere to the word count given to candidates.