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Maureen Reed offers vague positions on abiding and abortion


AUDIO: Eric Black interviews 6th Congressional District candidate Dr. Maureen Reed

Dr. Maureen Reed, candidate for both the DFL and Independence Party endorsements for Congress in the 6th District, will not say whether she will abide by the endorsement process, says that on abortion it would be inaccurate to characterize her as either pro-life or pro-choice, and is unwilling to express a preference among the various ways to get to universal health care.

Dr. Maureen Reed
Dr. Maureen Reed

In the wake of the departure from the race this week of former Minnesota Transportation Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg, Reed of Stillwater is one of two candidates seeking the DFL endorsement and nomination to run against Republican incumbent Rep.  Michele Bachmann

The other candidate, state Sen. Tarryl Clark, has pledged to abide by the DFL endorsement process. I plan to publish an interview with her shortly. Clark also has a clear position on abortion policy. But I have been trying for several days to learn Reed’s thinking on those questions.

Reed on abiding

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Wednesday, Reed’s spokester, Leslie Sandberg, released to the media a statement responding to questions about Reed’s position on endorsement abiding but, as you can see below, it’s a non-position:

“Here’s what I know — Maureen is actively seeking the DFL endorsement for the 6th Congressional District. She is also seeking cross-endorsement from the Independence Party. Maureen and the campaign have called hundreds of DFL delegates already and are excited to keep reaching out to them.

“In terms of whether or not she will abide — this is being pushed by supporters of Clark and Tinklenberg who want Maureen to make a statement on abiding by the endorsement.  Why? Well, only they can really answer that question, but we believe the fact that Maureen has raised funds far north of $230,000 has made the other campaigns stop and realize she is an extremely viable candidate.

“Therefore to answer your question about whether or not she abides,  this is where we are and this is what we know to be true — Maureen is actively working for and pursuing the DFL endorsement.”

After reading that statement, I was able to directly discuss the question with Reed again. The full audio of that discussion, which also covered the abortion issue, is below. See if you can figure out her position. Here’s what I got, in response to the question, will you abide by the DFL endorsement process or, if you don’t get the endorsement, are you reserving the right to run in a primary against the endorsee?:

“We’re going to get the endorsement. That is the plan. That is what we’re aiming at and that is where we’re focused… You can say that we’re planning to get the endorsement. All of our efforts are focused on that.”

Just as a hypothetical, on the chance that you don’t get endorsed?

“I’m not going to hypothesize. We’re going after the endorsement. That’s the goal.”

I may have made a little more progress on the related question of whether Reed could end up on the ballot as the Independence Party candidate. Reed is seeking the IP endorsement. In 2006, the IP endorsed the DFL endorsee in two congressional races, including the 6th. But the IP members are now discussing among themselves whether they are still open to cross-endorsing or whether they will insist on endorsing real IP-ers. Reed has a significant prevous IP connection. In 2006, she was the IP’s nominee for lieutenant governor. If she is not the DFL nominee, she could still, theoretically or at least legally, appear on the ballot as the IP nominee. But in our interview yesterday, she said:

“I would not run on the IP line. I’m DFL. And that’s the line that I’ll be on.”

This sorta repeats the position that she doesn’t have to discuss the hypothetical situation in which she is not on the DFL line, but perhaps the first short sentence is clear enough to be a commitment.

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Reed on abortion

In a previous conversation, I asked Reed for her abortion position, but she was willing to talk only about the importance of preventing unwanted pregnancies and other measures to reduce the number of abortions, but when I pressed for a basic “pro-life” or “pro-choice” statement (as those terms are commonly used),  she deferred her answer to another day. Because the 6th District has the highest pro-life index of any Minnesota Congressional district, I asked again yesterday, and this time, Reed went further.

She is not looking to have Roe v. Wade overturned.  But she seems in some way to believe that abortions can be justified only to save the life or health of the mother, which is not what Roe v. Wade holds, at least during the early stages of a pregnancy. She rejects the terms “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” saying she is neither. She is “pro-health and pro-prevention.” Here’s the first go-round, and you can listen to the tape if you want the full discussion:

“I come at this from a doctor’s perspective, Eric, as a doctor. I know that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and I’m not looking to overturn it. This procedure [now that I review the transcript, I note that Reed avoids using the word “abortion”] should be used to preserve the health and save the life of the mom and I don’t believe the government should be in the doctor’s office saying what that means…

“The ideological terms, pro-choice, pro-life don’t begin to describe the complexity of this moral and medical issue… It would be inaccurate to label me in either one of those ways. What would be accurate is to say I’m pro-health and pro-prevention.

“Maybe it’s the time for a new perspective on this. Maybe it’s a time for us to get away from simplistic labels and get down to the real complexity of the medical and moral issues around this.”

I did suggest to Reed that for those single-issue voters who consider themselves pro-life, her acceptance of Roe v. Wade may place her in unacceptable territory.  I’m not really sure what distinctions she is drawing because of her statement about keeping the government out of the issue, but her statement that abortion is acceptable only when necessary for the life or health of the mother makes her something other than pro-choice. But this was as much as I could ascertain.

Reed on universal health care

Because she is a physician and because she is emphasizing health issues, I asked her for her position on the various controversies surrounding the Obama administration and Congressional health care bills. She favors cost containment and universal coverage, but as to the best way to achieve those goals, she was non-committal:

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“The goals that I would have are that we have to get expenses under control, cut the cost of administration and care. And we have to cover everybody. We need universal coverage and we need lower costs. And there are a lot of ways to accomplish those goals.

“People get so wedded to a particular method that they forget about the goal that we’re trying to achieve. People wind up with their feet in wet cement on their method, that my method trumps your method. To me the only thing that counts is that we fix it.”

If she has to choose, Reed said, she favors: “Whatever you can get through.”

AUDIO: Eric Black interviews 6th Congressional District candidate Dr. Maureen Reed