Today I attended the CD2 sanctioned candidate forum in West St. Paul. All 3 candidates (Mike Obermueller, Patrick Ganey, and Kathleen Gaylord) were present. The Host and Moderater was Rep. Rick Hansen.
This forum was attended by about 45 people that I hard counted. The room was set to accomodate about that many and I assume that they had some RSVPs that allowed for planning. I’ll talk about attendance in a subsequent post. This is the only candidate forum that I know of prior to the convention next Saturday. I had tried to follow up with one via mnpACT, but there just wasn’t enough time or availability for all three that worked.
It makes it difficult for delegates to do proper vetting, but then again, if this is as important as I would hope it would be to the delegates, then you, as delegates, could be doing your due diligence and seek the candidates out. All three of these candidates are quite approachable and would love to have a discussion with any one of you. Google does work.
So here are my general impressions of the debate itself….
First of all, this forum is in the upper nether regions of the new District 2. In fact, you can see District 4 from their “house” as it were. Just a couple of blocks north and you are repesented by Betty McCollum. So, it was not exactly a central location; but when they went around to the attendees and asked where they were from, it was a fairly even distribution ….except for the very southern part of the district. Northfield, the burbs, and the West/South St. Paul area were all represented.
Another curiousity was that the Uptake was there but was not allowed to video the event. Mike McIntee was allowed to interview each candidate outside the room but not allowed to tape the actual event. I realize Kline paranoia is rampant, but geez, there are still a lot of people in the district who don’t know what the candidates look like or know basic issue stances. Take a chance will ya?
Alright, now that I have digressed enough, let’s get back to the debate…
In opening statements, Obermueller emphasized his small farm roots. Ganey opened up about health care and education as high priorities. Gaylord talked some about how the Tea Party is holding the 2nd District hostage.
The questions were basic and little disagreement was found. The first question asked about their personal experience with the 2nd District….which is hard for them to answer with about 2 or 3 weeks of campaigning under their belt. Gaylord hasn’t been officially in the second but pointed out that as Commissioner she has a broader reach into 2nd District politics. Mike Obermueller has probably had the most experience in the area with his legislative campaign and working with the broader DFL. Patrick hasn’t had much opportunity with the political end but his work with the Cannon River project gave him contacts with much of the district.
They were asked if they will abide by the endorsement. All three gave a quick yes answer.
Transit: Ganey brought up the Dan Patch corridor (which legislators are “forbidden” to talk about). And high speed rail. Obermueller talked about the Robert St Corridor (Highway 3) which he helped develop seed money for. He also mentioned that BRT, light rail, and improved highways all have their place. Gaylord also talked of the Robert St corridor which she has had direct involvement with and her work with the League of MN Cities on transit.
Small Business: Topic was somewhat divided on what the definition of small business really is. All three candidates wanted to work on the very small Main St. businesses which don’t have a lot of employees but do have a large impact on their local communities.
Best Individual Accomplishment: Interesting question with a lot of latitude. Obermueller talked of his term in the legislature and his committment to constituent service (Kline still doesn’t know that this is supposed to be part of his resume). Gaylord was proud of the work she did on Legislative Property Tax Commissions — especially the Property Tax Circuit Breaker which has been a salvation to a lot of Property Tax payers. Ganey mentioned his Peace Corps work which really changed his life into one of service orientation.
Kline’s Biggest Vulnerability: Gaylord – she said Kline’s problem is an inability to connect with people. Town halls are by telephone and he is never availble for Washington meetings. Gaylord says she will seek people out to talk rather than avoid them. Ganey – He talked of Kline’s rigid orthodoxy. He finds the proper talking point place to stand and stays there — inflexible. Obermueller – He simply believes that the “real” John Kline is not known and that he will work hard to expose him. We can respect the man but don’t have to respect his votes because they have been bad for the district.
What Committees Would You Seek: Ganey – Education and Agriculture. Obermueller: Education/Labor (to get rid of NCLB and protect union rights) and AG Committee (he was raised on a small farm and knows whats neededl). Gaylord: Finance or Ways and Means (she knows how budgets work) and Transportation.
Fundraising: I think it is safe to say that all three know the importance of this when taking on Kline. Obermueller has hired a professional fundraiser who has experience in Congressional campaigns. Gaylord expects to have opportunities with major women groups. Ganey is a professional fundraiser himself and drew a chuckle from the attendees when he said “he loves to ask people for money”.
Affordable Care Act: They were asked first what they think will happen with the Supreme Court decision…..and they all properly ducked that question. No other option. Really not relevant. But they did talk about what’s needed in case it is overturned. Ganey: The basic premise is that we MUST care for the sick. He will fight for universal coverage no matter what it takes. Obermueller: States that health care is a right not a privilege. We have to find a way to universal coverage. Find the good parts of AFA and expand them. Gaylord: We cannot go back to where we were. Just not possible. Cost prohibitive. Depending on how the Supreme Court words its decision, there may be an opening for Single Payer.
Breaking Dependence on Foreign Oil: Gaylord – Alternative sources are just not ready to meet the need. We should end oil subsidies and move that money into real research and development in all the promising areas of renewables. Ganey – Stop investing in the past. No quick solutions right now, but we need to look at this from a global perspective, not just US. Obermueller: Right now, conservation needs to be a focus. Need to keep broadening the array of options and give incentives to small business to try them.
Iran/North Korea/India Pakistan/Israel Palestine: Ganey: Ultimately it is about people. (referred to his Peace Corps background and time spent overseas). Peaceful diplomacy is essential. More Hillary – Less Military. Obermueller: Kline will make foreign policy an issue in campaign. He voted for wars that had dubious reasons and lots of wasted money. In Iran, more steps and sanctions are needed. Military intervention may be on the table but it has to be last resort. We need to stress a revitalization of the Israeli/Palestinian peace process. Gaylord: Does not claim to be an expert but know experts from whom she will seek advice. Violence and Military intervention are not working. And she also praised Hillary Clinton’s efforts.
All three seemed knowledgable and ready for any question. They even had good responses for Rick Hansen’s Asian Carp question (although if you are around Rick for any length of time, you knew it was coming). This will be a tough decision. They all have visible strengths and all have weaknesses. That happens with every candidate. They are all inexperienced in this type of political combat…..Kline will not hold back.
If you are a CD delegate, your homework assignement is to gather information. Don’t be afraid to call or e-mail the candidates…they want to hear from you. It’s time to get serious about a real campaign to defeat John Kline. That takes more than a candidate, it takes all of us.
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