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Minnesota House 21B candidates vie for votes in Primary

Two Republican challengers, one DFL candidate seek seat being vacated by Rep. Rod Hamilton.

Minnesota House 21B candidates
Seeking the Minnesota House 21B seat are Marj Fogelman (from left), Michael Heidelberger and Jayesun Sherman.
Special to The Globe
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WORTHINGTON — Three candidates are on the ballot for the Minnesota House of Representatives District 21B seat, currently held by Rep. Rod Hamilton, who announced in January he would not seek reelection.

Jayesun Israel Sherman and Marj Fogelman are on the ballot as Republicans. Fogelman received the Republican party endorsement.

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Michael Heidelberger is seeking the seat as a candidate of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party.

The Globe asked candidates questions regarding their stance on a variety of issues and what their priorities are.

How would you address the recent increase in gas prices?

Fogelman: First and most importantly, I will oppose efforts by Gov. Walz and Democrats to increase the gas tax. Just since 2019, Democrats voted for 25 cents/gallon in gas tax increases and to raise the price of gas automatically every year by tying it to an index that rises with inflation. We also need Biden and the federal government to stop restricting oil drilling, pipelines, and other domestic American energy — their policies have directly contributed to gas rising more than $2/gallon since he was inaugurated. In St. Paul, I’ll work to pass a record tax cut with our $7 billion budget surplus and help families keep more of their hard-earned money to help offset inflation and high gas prices.

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Heidelberger: Oil companies continue to report record profits while the American people suffer. They asked for help during the pandemic, and America answered with another bail-out for big corporations. We need to pressure these companies and not allow them to take advantage of the American people.

Oil is not a renewable resource, and we should use it to invest in the infrastructure required for the future of our energy independence. Only when we have energy independence will we be able to get away from the price swings that political unrest, such as the war in Ukraine, causes.

Sherman: When the current Administration promised to come against “oil and gas” and to push “green energy,” their policies proved they were serious. Since Biden came into power, he has proven that he does not understand how energy really works. Even if it were wise to convert completely away from carbon-based energy at some point, we cannot (and must not) try to get there in a few short years at any cost! Biden should not have shut down the Keystone Pipeline, restricted drilling on government land, and messed with oil and gas leases and permits. We were already going the wrong direction before Putin put masses of troops on the Ukrainian border, and then attacked Ukraine unprovoked. So, change policies and the price will come down. Become energy-independent again and the price will come down. Stop blaming Putin, oil companies, Republicans, Big Meat, Big Business, and everyone but himself and gas prices will come down. When Biden evades accountability, he proves himself to be a weak and inept leader. As a legislator, I would do everything in my power to support and create bills which encourage all-of-the-above when it comes to energy.

How would you deal with the ongoing worker shortage in rural Minnesota?

Fogelman: We need to encourage more students to go into the trades and explore careers in agriculture and other industries. Many of these jobs pay way more than jobs that require a college degree, and these are sectors struggling to find skilled workers or workers willing to learn the skills needed to fill the positions. We can work to encourage partnerships between high schools and trade schools so students have more awareness that college isn’t their only option, and build public-private partnerships to allow high school students to serve as apprentices where they can learn the skills needed to fill one of these high-paying positions.

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Heidelberger: To solve the labor problem, we need to create an environment that benefits working people. We need to promote affordable housing. If people cannot afford to live in southwest Minnesota, I do not know how we expect them to work here. We need to provide quality health care for everyone. Healthy people are happy people who are more able to work. Becoming a leader in this area will incentivize more people to move into southwest Minnesota.

We must invest in our school systems. An investment into our schools is an investment in small-town Minnesota life. High-quality education attracts hard-working people. We must make immigrating to this country easier and expand work visa programs, getting people who want to work into our workforce.

Sherman: The government needs to incentivize work and stop making it easy to stay out of the job force. Providing enough money for people to stay home hurts everyone ultimately. Beyond this, the obsession with everything COVID dampened the environment. The market will figure itself out with less government “intervention.” In a free country where people can decide for themselves, many are deciding to rely on government. Someone wisely noted that “A government big enough to give you everything is a government strong enough to take everything away.” Pushing for a $15 minimum wage will hurt small businesses and do little to assuage the current worker shortage. Rural Minnesota is a great place to live. I know because I live in Greater Minnesota. Many are unwilling or uninterested in rural living for various reasons. Better advertising could help alleviate concerns about the unknown. If they would only give it a try, huh?!?

Your stance on immigration policies, particularly regarding state laws concerning employment?

Fogelman: We are a country of laws and need to enforce the law especially as it pertains to employment. Employers can’t be allowed to look the other way and exploit those in vulnerable situations because they aren’t in the country legally. The Biden administration has basically opened our borders, with record numbers of illegal border crossings happening nearly every month. We need the federal government to step up and enforce our immigration laws, strengthen border security, and send a clear signal that people need to immigrate here legally doing it the right way.

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Heidelberger: We have a labor shortage in the area. We should allow those that would like to work an opportunity to do so. We should allow more work visas and create an easier, more accessible path toward citizenship.

Sherman: America has welcomed many immigrants and continues to do so. There are quite a few ways to enter the U.S. legally, and ways to get employment legally as well. With a couple dozen visa options, there continues to be great opportunity for people wishing to come to America. Employment laws prohibit illegal access to employment and should continue to do so. Many may not realize that America is a terrific place to be in so many ways until they begin to travel abroad. I have traveled to six continents/21 countries. Having spent 10 years in Asia, I know how good we have it and how most people are in abject poverty in many other countries. Being an American is great! Coming to America for work or any other reason is a great experience for most. Becoming an American citizen is the greatest feeling for so many. I welcome all who do it the legal way. My friend, Faith, became a U.S. citizen some months ago and she was elated to have made it through the process. I am so proud of her! When people want to come into a country by the droves, we know it is a good and safe nation. When people want to leave a country by the droves, we know it is not a good and safe nation. As a legislator, I would move toward closing loopholes which aid and encourage illegal immigration … and welcome all who follow our laws.

Thoughts on the recent SCOTUS overturn of Roe v. Wade, and abortion access in Minnesota?

Fogelman: The decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was a historic decision that pro-life Americans have been working toward for decades. Here in Minnesota, the impact was minimal because of past Minnesota Supreme Court cases similar to Roe v. Wade on the federal level. I’m running as a 100% pro-life conservative, and will always work to protect the unborn, ensure dignity for our aging loved ones, and build a culture that promotes life that supports both babies and mothers. Minnesota has a long way to go to being a pro-life state, but it’s something I will work toward as your next State Representative

Heidelberger: We should be listening to the experts when we create policies. Most experts agree that abortion access is necessary health care. It would be irresponsible for Minnesota to change its stance on abortion access. We cannot take away the freedom that a woman has to choose what to do with her body.

Sherman: Whatever your understanding or opinion on this issue, SCOTUS did nothing to prevent abortions in the U.S. Their decision merely handed the issue back to the states. Minnesota has been aborting babies for many years and will continue to do so until we the people elect enough legislators who see this moral stain for what it is. There are a number of places that offer to perform an abortion in Greater Minnesota and a number of them in the Cities. SCOTUS made it possible for Minnesota to decide for itself. I think abortion should end. I am an abortion survivor and I am glad to have escaped with my life. Those seeking to end the life of their baby do not always understand the process and/or the politics. Minnesota will need to decide. With an average of 30 abortions per day in Minnesota, time is of the essence!

Explain the No. 1 issue you see facing the district and how you will respond to it:

Fogelman: Inflation and cost of living continue to be the top issues. Families are struggling to afford groceries, rural residents who have to drive long distances for work and/or just go to the store are being hit especially hard by gas prices, and electric bills are much more expensive than they were just a few years ago. I support giving the surplus back to taxpayers and permanently ending the tax on social security. Minnesota is one of just a dozen states that still taxes these benefits that our seniors earned over their working lives, and it’s unfair that Minnesota is skimming money off the top simply because it’s counted as income. No senior should pay taxes on social security, especially when our budget surplus is so massive and families are struggling to get by. I will work with my Republican colleagues to pass the largest tax cut in history and make sure you get to keep the money you’ve earned.

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Heidelberger: ​​Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in Minnesota and 10th nationally. We are letting our most vulnerable people down. The 988 hotline is an excellent step in the right direction, but we need to do more. Investing in quality health care, especially mental health care, is a step in the right direction for Minnesota.

Sherman: When nearly 40% of children born in 2022 will grow up without a father, fatherlessness is epidemic. We need to incentivize and empower NGOs to lead the charge. Government has a role and legislators can make changes, but we the people are the ones to address this pressing concern head-on. As Ben says, “Two things can be true at the same time.” We need government to govern well and we need families to live well. When families are strong, Minnesota and the U.S. can be strong. God informed us that we reap what we sow. So, we need to reclaim life and fathers and families. There is a right way to live. As a legislator, I will fight for families and support others who value the same.

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NOTE: Some responses were trimmed to adhere to the word count given to candidates.

Emma McNamee joined The Globe team in October 2021 as a reporter covering Crime & Courts, Politics, and the City beats. Born and raised in Duluth, Minn., McNamee left her hometown to attend school in Chicago at Columbia College. She graduated in 2021 with a degree in Multimedia Journalism, with a concentration in News & Feature Writing and a minor in Creative Writing.
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