The candidates gathered here today are seeking the DFL's nomination for Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District. The nominee that emerges will attempt to unseat Freshman Republican Chip Cravaack next November.
Campaigning is underway in the 8th and this primary has more candidates than any other in the state. Jeff Anderson, Tarryl Clark, Daniel Fanning and Rick Nolan have started raising money and gathering endorsements in this large and varied district. Outside interest groups eager to influence voters in the district have already spent money on TV ads. Democrats hope to reclaim the seat held for decades by Rep. Jim Oberstar (D). Oberstar was the longest serving member of Congress from Minnesota when he lost to Cravaack in 2010.
Here are the opening statements from the candidates in the order they were sent to MPR News.
Daniel Fanning: I'm running for Congress not only to replace Representative Cravaack, but also to help change the way we do politics in our district and country. Politics as usual isn't working for most of us - the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. As someone who grew up poor, I'm passionately motivated to represent those of us who understand everyday struggles. As a proud Progressive, I will continue to advocate for our shared values including defending: seniors (protecting Social Security & Medicare); public education; fellow veterans; worker's rights; women's rights; farmers; small business owners; and other DFL principles that make our country great. I've been actively engaged in the Duluth community for over a decade and have already been directly working on federal issues throughout our district. I'll hit the ground running once I'm elected! As a combat veteran, AmeriCorps alum, community organizer, non-profit coordinator for youth programs, Regional Representative for Senator Franken, and a longtime community volunteer - I have always been committed to serving others. We must reject politics and politicians as usual and start creating living wage jobs and equal opportunities for all. Let's get the district back on track & moving forward!
Rick Nolan: People almost always ask me two questions as we meet:
"Where's home?" Answer is, my wife Mary and I live near Crosby on the Cuyuna Range.
Then something like this: "You've already served three terms in Congress. You've spent 30 successful years in business. Why would you want to return to that mess in Washington?"
Answer is, I know I can make a real difference, starting on day one.
The other side's declared war on the middle class. Unemployment's nearing Great Depression levels. Social Security and Medicare are in danger. Working families, seniors, small businesses and communities need a champion. They need a problem solver and real leadership.
I'll return with the seniority of a 4th termer. I know how to lead fights for regular people and win in Congress. I've done it, repeatedly.
And I know how to win elections. I won a conservative district three consecutive times by an average margin of 58%.
Rep. Cravaack is a failed experiment, completely out of touch. While voting to protect the rich and powerful, he's voting to close our small airports, cut fire protection and kill an NLX light rail that will generate 14,000 jobs.
He needs to return home to his family in New Hampshire, and a year from now, I plan to send him there.
Tarryl Clark: I'm running because Washington needs to get it's priorities straight. We should be focusing on creating good sustainable jobs here and making good on our promises to Seniors, Veterans and our Children. Washington has chosen to ignore these priorities. Congressman Cravaack is promoting the Ryan Plan, voting against important infrastructure projects and attempting to gut Medicare. His priorities haven't created a single job or helped working families make ends meet. For over the last 23 years I've worked to make life better for our seniors, working families, veterans, and communities throughout Central and Northeastern Minnesota. I've worked with labor, faith communities, nonprofits, and local leaders, to create positive change. I've served as a youth minister, worked with the Girl Scouts, founded Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity, fought for Seniors as an attorney, worked with Community Action agencies throughout the region, focused on our families, and communities as a state senator, and now am national co-chair of a jobs creating campaign. No candidate can match my passion for bringing people together and standing up for is right. From my grassroots campaigns to being a leader in the MN Senate, I've been, and will continue to be, a strong voice for our priorities.
Jeff Anderson: I'm Jeff Anderson, candidate for Congress in Minnesota's 8th Congressional District. I am a fourth generation Iron Ranger - born and raised in Ely, went to college in Bemidji and Duluth, and have worked in business throughout this region for the past 15 years. I have served my nation and community as an Infantryman in the Minnesota Army National Guard for 6 years, as president of the Duluth Economic Development Authority, and as president of the Duluth City Council.
This election is about jobs and economic opportunities for the people of the 8th. I know the challenges and opportunities facing us. We need representation in Congress from someone who has spent their entire adult life in business and public service working to create jobs. The next generation of prosperity is on its way. We need a partner in Washington who will work to make that happen for the people of Minnesota.
I am proud to have earned the endorsement of the International Association of Fire Fighters, State Senator Roger Reinert, State Representative Carly Melin, Ely Mayor Roger Skraba, Two Harbors Mayor Randy Bolen, Cloquet Mayor Bruce Ahlgren, former State Senator's Jerry Janezich, Ron Dicklich and others.
Before we get the official debate going at 11:30, let's take a moment to get to know the candidate background. What personal qualities do you possess that make you qualified to serve the 8th District?
As a fourth generation Iron Ranger and a public servant representing 87,000 people in the largest city in the district, I know the challenges and opportunities facing the citizens of the 8th. My 15+ years in private sector business coupled with my time as the president of our City Council and Economic Development Authority have prepared me well to serve as a Representative for the 8th.
Having grown up in poverty, I understand everyday struggles. I know what it's like to watch your family live paycheck to paycheck. We need more leaders in Washington DC who understand that. Also, as an Iraq War Veteran I understand, firsthand, the need to ask tough questions before taking action. As an AmeriCorps alum, I again realize, firsthand, the importance of national service programs like AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and other vital programs that are great for jobs, great for the community and great ways for young people to get involved.
A lifetime of demonstrated effectiveness in politics, elective office, business and volunteer and community service.
Having worked on the Federal Issues throughout the 8th District over the last couple of years I know the issues well, as well as the community leaders who we need to partner with in order to get the district back on track and moving forward.
It's 11:30. Let's go to the first question: Unemployment is high in the 8th district. If elected what would you do to increase the number of jobs there?
I am the only candidate who has spent the last 23 years working to make life better for our seniors, working families, small businesses, veterans, and our communities throughout Central and Northeastern Minnesota. I’ve worked together with labor, faith communities, nonprofits, local leaders, and small businesses to create positive change. I’ve spent my life as a youth minister, working with girl scouts, founding central Minnesota habitat for humanity, working with community action agencies throughout the region, working for seniors, veterans and families as a state senator, and now as national co-chair of a jobs creating campaign. After just 11 months I was elected to the number 2 leadership position in the state senate. I don’t plan to wait to get things done. I have the relationships and experience to get things done in polarized environment such as Washington DC
It starts with infrastructure: support the Northern Lights Express (NLX) and support building/rebuilding our districts roads, bridges, wastewater treatment plants, etc.. these are plans that will get folks back to work immediately.
Investment in infrastructure and in mining are the two quickest ways to create jobs in the 8th. We need a partner in Washington DC who understands this and will work with communities throughout the district to make these key investments in a way that is both environmentally and economically sound.
Here in the District, we need a congressman who will fight for, not vote against, things like light rail and essential airport services and expansion. Nationally, we need to stop spending trillions on nation building around the world and re-direct those funds to rebuilding America and its infrastructure
This combined with revisions in our tax and trade policies will create millions of new good paying jobs here in the 8th District and all across the nation.
I will work to support small businesses, which are really the main job creators in the district and country. I applaud and support President Obama’s recent steps to assist small businesses. Moving forward, we must pass the American Jobs Act, either as a whole or in increments. Big picture, we have to free up credit and we have to deal with bigger issues like healthcare and consumer confidence.
I've seen firsthand here in Duluth how we can get things done, invest in infrastructure and create jobs with help from St. Paul and Washington. Rep. Cravaack thinks that too many of the critical needs here in the 8th are just wants. That's not the case.
As congressman, I will evaluate every piece of legislation we consider on the basis of its impact on creating good paying jobs. I will be a relentless champion for job creation.
I've been a member of the Iron Range Economic Alliance (IREA) and know there are a number of great proposals that are very close to coming to fruition that will help create jobs and suppor the local economy. We've already seen this happen with projects like the Eco-Industrial Park in Grand Rapids but there are many other projects that will do the same all throughout the district. Now we needa Congressman who understands the issues and can hit the ground running, which is what I offer.
This next question comes from John McPherson in Duluth. Please give specifics in your answer: Governor Dayton recently announced he will take action to invest in small businesses in Minnesota. What will you do in support of Duluth's small businesses and their owners and employees?
I am the only candidate that is currently working on bringing jobs to the 8th district as the national co-chair of the Jobs 21! initiative. Before becoming a national co-chair I worked these issues in the State Senate. Its not enough to just talk about bringing jobs to the district as our current member congress does its about action. My Get Ahead Agenda focuses on bringing infrastructe jobs to the district such as NLX as well as as infrastructure jobs increase broadband access, as well as increasing regional manufacturing and increasing renewable energy jobs.
Small businesses are really the main job creators, and the backbone of the economy in many ways. Again, I applaud & support President Obama’s recent steps to assist small businesses, including proposing to cut payroll taxes paid by companies on the first $5 million of taxable wages in half – which can help increase cash flow and reduce the expense of bringing on new employees. Again, we must pass the American Jobs Act. The small business loan program/Small Business Jobs Act was well-intentioned but largely didn’t work because requirements were too stringent. Bigger picture, we have to free up credit and we have to deal with bigger issues like healthcare and consumer confidence. As far as healthcare, one of the best things we can do for both small business owners and workers is to reduce employer’s ownership of healthcare plans and have a truly universal healthcare system.
I am the only candidate that is currently working on bringing jobs to Duluth as a City Councilor and Economic Development Authority Commissioner. I'm also the only candidate who is currently a small business owner in Duluth. I've worked with the business community and construction trades to invest in key infrastructure making it possible for business and industry to relocate here. Again, government at all levels can be a partner with the private sector to help them create jobs. I've done this here in Duluth and will be a Congressman who looks to work in partnership with business, local government, labor and other key stakeholders to create jobs in this city and region.
I continue to hear from small businesses throughout the region that access to credit is the biggest road block to hiring new employees and expanding business. Instead of focusing on Main street Representative Cravaack has been busy bailing out Wall St. In the legislature I expanded small business loans and guarantees. I will work to end tax breaks for companies outsourcing their jobs and instead invest in R&D tax credits and workforce development. I have also run a small business and been self employed and know the challenges that small businesses face such as making payroll, providing healthcare(which I have always done even on my congressional campaigns) and meeting the bottom line.
As Congressman, I want to make sure we're not just invested in creating jobs -- but good, living wage jobs. We can do that by investing in manufacturing, mining, green initiatives, and transportation.
I have also been housing and redevelopment commissioner and served on the governors workforce council as well as run a small business
First of all, I've been a small business man for the last 25 years, as a former owner of a sawmill and pallet factory in the heart of the 8th District, Emily, Minnesota. I have bought logs from the loggers, sold pallets to many of the 8th District's manufacturers. Small businesses are truly the backbone of job creation in our economy. Every survey of small business owners has concluded the single most important factor in their success is having strong markets for their goods and services. Policies that will expand utilization of the Duluth Port facilities will have a critical and positive impact on Duluth's small business economy.
This last jobs question comes from Aaron Brown in Itasca County. Again, please be specific in your answer.
For generations of booms and busts people have known that the resource-based economy of northern Minnesota is both a blessing and a curse. What will you advocate in Congress that will foster the diversification of the region's economy?
It's a great question and Aaron is exactly right. We must diversify! Governor Dayton is on the right path with this, as is DEED and IRRRB, I'm proud to support that work. As Congressman, I will continue to work with partners like IREA, EDAM, IRRRB, APEX and local Chambers as well our great partners in Labor to create new jobs and supporting exisiting jobs and workers.
I certainly believe that we need to continue to invest in mining, but we also need to embrace opportunities to expand our tourism base. Beyond that I also want to see us diversify our manufacturing base throughout the district. Let's make things here with people who live here and are anxious to get to work.
For many years I ran my export and trading business out of my farm house between Brainerd and Grand Rapids. Expanding broadband internet services throughout the 8th District is the single most important thing we can do to drive diversification of jobs and the economy here in the 8th District. With high speed internet services, a local
person can create and conduct virtually any kind of business anywhere in the world.
Again, there are number of proposals that I will push as Congressman that currently seem to lack the support of Congressman Cravaack. I know these issues, these communities and the people involved well. These include the new Eco-Industrial Park in Silver Bay, a new business park in Floodwood, etc.. just to name a few. We must foster our manufacturing base, expand broadband access to draw new businesses to the area, and continue to ensure we have the educational & training that we need in the region that is matched with the skill set required for job seekers.
We'll stick with this question for 2 more minutes before moving on to a question about sulfide mining.
We have a strong and proud tradition of mining here in Northern MN which must continue, but we must also continue to diversify the economy and work with our partners in the shipping industry, small businesses, manufacturing, etc..
I would focus on good sustainable jobs in the district. As national co-chair of the Jobs 21! initiative this is exactly what I have been working on. For example instead of sending off Taconite we should be keeping it here and manufacturing our own products such as windmill parts instead of importing them from foreign countries. We have many in the district that want to diversify for example farming, or manufacturing. Together we can create those opportunities. Improving our broadband and transportation infrastructure will help us build on the ingenuity and productivity of the district that will allow us to grow and diversify local businesses.
Various mining firms say they are prepared to invest billions into mining activity in the 8th Congressional District. These mines will be the first to extract and process copper, nickel and other precious metals. What’s your stand on sulfide mining in the 8th district?
I'm willing to consider all potential employment opportunities that will put people in Northern MN back to work. Each and every job needs to be weighed against any potential environmental impacts to see if the long term costs exceed the short term benefits.
It must be a balanced approach. Yes, we need jobs, jobs, jobs but we have to ensure we don't have shor-term vision. We have an obligation to the present AND the future to ensure we help provide jobs now BUT also protect the environment now and in the long term future. Every opportunity must be weighed carefully. We have strict environmental standards in MN, and that's a good thing. In order for any project to move forward, they are going to need to prove they can meet those standards.
In the 70's and 80's, sulfur emissions threatened the forests and lakes of the 8th District. Congress passed strong laws prohibiting those emissions, thus saving our forests and lakes from acid rain.
We had the technology then and we have it now to go forward with mining the 8th District's valuable minerals in a way that contains dangerous sulfur emissions that threaten our environment, while protecting and expanding jobs in our mining and tourism industries.
As a follow up to the first question: Are you convinced that sulfide mining can exist in the 8th Congressional District without environment degradation?
Yes, the technology exists to contain harmful sulfur emissions. What we need is the political will and courage to insist on strong standards.