Video Replay, Transcript & Interviews: Final Franken- McFadden Debate Before Election

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Al Franken & Mike McFadden

Al Franken & Mike McFadden

Senator Al Franken (DFL) and his challenger Mike McFadden (R) engaged in their final debate Sunday night at the Fitzgerald Theater.

The debate was hosted by Minnesota Public Radio. MPR hosts Cathy Wurzer and Kerri Miller moderated.

Transcript and more videos

Transcript by Susan Maricle

KM: Kerri Miller, Minnesota Public Radio
CW: Cathy Wurzer, Minnesota Public Radio
AF: Al Franken, Democratic incumbent U.S. Senator
MM: Mike McFadden, Republican candidate for U.S. Senator

CW: It’s been a long campaign, it’s almost over, but not before we hear from the candidates in one final debate of the 2014 election season in Minnesota. This one pits incumbent U.S. Democratic Senator Al Franken, who’s finishing up his first term, against the Republican challenger, political newcomer and businessman Mike McFadden. I’m Cathy Wurzer, the host of Morning Edition on Minnesota Public Radio News, along with Kerri Miller from the Daily Circuit.

KM: Hello there, welcome everyone. I’ve always liked the way that Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis thought about polit political voting and the roles that voters play in politics. He said, “The most important political office is that of the private citizen.” In other words, your vote counts. Our goal tonight, is to speed you on your way to that vote, with important information and more information about these candidates for the U.S. Senate. So shall we begin? Welcome everyone, good to have you here.

CW: Thank you!

(audience applauds)

CW: Glad you’re with us. Thanks to the candidates, glad you’re here.

KM: Ah Senator Franken, your term in the Senate has been characterized by many as a time in which you’ve eschewed your previous career as a comedian and you’ve played it safe. You’ve even been proudly boring at times. One voter, Paula Manor of Northfield, told the Washington Post recently about you, “I’d like to see him take more risk.” So the question is, if you’re constantly playing it safe, are you really making a difference?

AF: Well ah I don’t constantly play it safe. I don’t think I’ve played it safe. I’ve – taken on ah a lot of special interests. Ah one of the first bills I did was ah women in Iraq and Afghanistan had been sexually assaulted ah by ah military contractors. And they had signed employment contracts in which there was mandatory arbitration. So these women couldn’t go to court. So I stood up and said “This is wrong. These women should be able to have their day in court.” And I had actually the Defense Department against me. (laughs) I had defense contractors against me. I had ah 30 Republicans, ah my colleague Jeff Sessions, leading the fight against me. On this. But I won.

KM: You also had plenty of senators, including Kirsten Gillibrand, on your side.

AF: Well I, this is

KM: It wasn’t you against the whole

AF: This is,

KM: infrastructure.

AF: this is a different issue. Ah that’s that’s what Kristen has taken a leadership role on is women in the military. This is women who had been sexually assaulted by military contractors. And military contractors have employment contracts with their employees, saying that they can’t go to court on any employment dispute, they have to go into mandatory arbitration. And this is one of the things in the Judiciary Committee I’ve led the fight against, is mandatory arbitration. Ah and so I won that battle, and that was after I was there a couple of weeks.

I’ve also been a lone voice in a lot of things – I’ve I’ve been battling the Comcast/Time Warner cable merger. That is about the creation of a ah a behemoth that I think would be ah very bad for for ah consumers of ah the internet, and consumers of television. They’re the largest cable television ah company, buying the second-largest cable television company. They’re the first largest internet provider. They’re ah ah

KM: Don’t Americans

AF: buying the third largest

KM: Don’t Americans love to hate their cable companies? I mean, you know that this is going to be

AF: They do, so I’ve got an actually, when I started this fight

KM: You know that that will be a popular issue among average Americans, don’t you?

AF: When I started this fight, it was a sort of a fait accompli that this would go through. I actually led the fight against ah ah Comcast buying NBC and ah I didn’t win that one but I got a lot of conditions put on that that that acquisition. And ah on this one I think the tide has turned. And also you have to understand

KM: I’m gonna

AF: that Comcast is one of the biggest political donors. And has has ah over a hundred lobbyists (laughs) on Capitol Hill

KM: I’m gonna move on now.

AF: So I was fighting them. So I just wanted to

CW: Mike McFadden. Do you buy this? That Senator Franken has taken on special interests and won?

MM: Y’know, I I I don’t. I I my dad told me a long time ago, look at someone’s actions, not what they say. And ah Senator Franken I thank you for service over the last six years, but I don’t think you’ve met the standard of a U.S. senator and this state. As I’ve gone around this state, and I left my job to run for the U.S. Senate because fundamentally I believe we could do a lot better. We have to do better. And I’ve traveled around this great state of ours, I’ve been to all 87 counties, and I gotta tell you – ah my respect for Amy Klobuchar has increased so much in terms of her work ethic. She’s everywhere. Everywhere I’ve been, she’s been to. And I can’t tell you the number of times that I have been in counties and cities where they haven’t seen you, Al, and they and they say you’ve not been accessible. And then in the next breath they tell me what a great job that Senator Klobuchar is doing. I think she sets the standard for a U.S. senator in this state. And I believe that Minnesota deserves two hard-working senators. And I’ll work hard for Minnesota.

I think you’ve been invisible. I look at your record. In your first year, in your first term, you’ve had zero pieces of legislation turn into law. Amy Klobuchar in her first term

AF: That’s not true.

MM: No, it is true.

AF: That is not true.

MM: In in in her first term she had seven pieces of legislation turn into law.

KM: That is not true.

AF: It is not true. I’ve had ah a lot of pieces of legislation – ah Pat Roberts, a Republican of Kansas and I, did a piece of legislation together ah that on ah these compounded drugs, lots of people died from these a couple of years ago, we filled that loophole in that, ah I ah did the workforce ah training ah reform, ah with Lamar Alexander, a Republican of Tennessee, and with Republicans in the House. Ah my first bill actually passed two weeks after I got to the Senate, it was to make sure that – I I used to go on a lot of USO tours. And ah I met a lot of veterans who have these invisible wounds.

KM: Go ahead.

AF: TBI and

MM: Y’know what, I’m I’m I’m talkin

AF: and PTSD

MM: about pieces of legislation that you’ve sponsored that turned into legislation that actually turned into law. Amy Klobuchar sponsored over twice the number of pieces of legislation in her first term. That’s – the fact. And and

KM: Mr. McFadden, are you here tonight to say that you, if elected, would be a senator like Amy Klobuchar?

MM: Y’know, y’know what, ah Amy Amy

KM: That seems a little odd (audience laughter) and

MM: Kerri, Kerri, what what I’m no what I am here to say is I think that Senator Klobuchar sets the bar for work ethic and authenticity. She represents Minnesota well. She travels every county, all 87 counties, every year. I asked Al Franken up in Duluth, have you been to 87 counties since you’ve been elected.

AF: Yes I have.

MM: Do you go there every year? You’ve, do you –

AF: No I don’t.

MM: Well, I will visit ‘em every year.

AF: I I know but

MM: And Amy Klobuchar visits ‘em every year and

AF: I understand

MM: And I believe that that’s the bare minimum that one should do as a U.S. senator.

KM: Senator, you were gonna say – in response

AF: To to which part?

KM: To have you been to every county, do you feel you’ve been

AF: I have been to every county, I have had ah thirteen hundred ah official meetings, I go and talk y’know for example, ah on propane – I go all around the state and talk to our ah turkey growers, our soybean growers, I on ah I I am around the state

MM: In in the Albert Lea paper today, it when they endorsed me, this is where you lived when you were six years old, said they haven’t seen you.

AF: They said

MM: They said they saw you multiple times before the 2008 election.

CW: Quick response, then I want to get on to something else.

AF: Let me answer that! They said, this is the Albert Lea paper did endorse you, and they said because I haven’t been there since the primary. Now ah (sighs) I I was in Albert Lea a few months ago. This is, this is a big state. I have a big responsibility in Washington, in the United States Senate. And you can drive through a county and say you’ve been in the county. The the way that I’m the United States Senate senator is that there are very very important ah – in agriculture, in manufacturing,

KM: Lots of issues.

AF: (unclear)

MM: So, so, so, so Senator Klobuchar goes to all 87 counties every year. She thinks that it is important as a U.S. senator. I believe that’s important as a U.S. senator.

KM: I think, I think we are clear on that.

AF: Yep.

KM: I think we’d like to move into some other issues

MM: But but but but

AF: I’d like to talk about it

KM: Yeah.

AF: 87 more times.

(audience and KM laugh)

CW: I’m gonna move on –

KM: Let’s go, let’s go to some issues.

CW: Because really, we have a lot of people who want to know about this, both of you called the terrorist group, the Islamic state “barbaric.” You both agree on that. The U.S. has been bombing targets in Iraq and Syria, you both agree that needs to be done.

AF: Yep.

CW: But militant fighters are still on the move. The President and the Defense Secretary says this is gonna be a long and difficult effort. Difficult, because some critics say the U.S. is not bombing enough targets. It’s not employing any U.S. ground troops. So Mr. McFadden, at what point could U.S. ground forces be warranted?

MM: Well, ah I supported ah the President when he announced that he was going to start strategic bombing in Syria. I don’t support ground troops. I think the ah the decision that a senator makes to send ground troops from the United States into harm’s way, it is one of the gravest decisions you will make. And for me, I have a criteria, it’s three-pronged. One is there has to be a clear strategic objective for the United States at stake. Second is there has to be a very defined scope, a mission, meaning there’s gotta be a beginning and a finish. And third, you have to go in with overwhelming force to ensure victory.

CW: Syrian rebels

MM: And I haven’t heard

CW: Syrian rebels want more U.S. help.

MM: And I understand that. But I haven’t heard from this president an answer to number two or number three. And so until I would hear that, I I I won’t support ground troops at this point in time. I can’t tell you how disappointed I’ve been with President Obama and his lack of foreign policy. I believe that leading behind doesn’t work. Ah this is a president, remember that when he was elected six years ago said, ‘I’m gonna sit down with the leaders of North Korea, Iran and Venezuela –

KM: Can, can we stay

MM: and we’ll work

KM: just for a moment specifically on ISIL?

CW: Yes.

KM: Same question.

CW: And I do want to go, we have other foreign policy to bring up. But, same question to the Senator. At what point – could the U.S. ground forces be warranted when it comes to this situation?

AF: Ah I also have supported the President’s bombing in Syria. Ah ISIS or ISIL does not observe a border between Syria and Iraq (MM coughs), and neither should we. Ah they shouldn’t be able to park their their weapons that they took from the Iraqi military over there, we should be able to bomb them. I did vote for us to train and ah equip the quote moderate rebels in ah Syria

CW: Right.

AF: ah y’know I have, I’m skeptical about the success of that. Ah there are so many ah forces in Syria. We’re talking about Kurds and Druze and ah

CW: You sound like you’re a little skittish perhaps about sending U.S. troops in.

AF: Well yes, I am. Because we need to be a little bit humble from ah what we’ve seen in in ah y’know in in the Middle East. In terms of our ability to, in Afghanistan and in Iraq, to go in there and at such cost to our troops, this is why I was talking about getting service talks to guys with invisible wounds. Who who have PTSD and TBI. I’ve seen, I’ve gone to a lot of funerals. And so I’m very wary of going into a long land war in that region, especially when you have, what you have here are ah radical Sunnis fighting against moderate Sunnis. You have ah Shias fighting ah y’know Iran has supported Asaad. And I will, y’know we are negotiating now with Iran, I I think that is a very good thing, we’re negotiating with them on our nuclear program that the President

MM: All right,

KM: Mr. McFadden, go ahead.

MM: Can I, can I step in on this?

KM: A quick response, and then we’re gonna move on.

MM: On a couple of things. Ah first of all, ah this president ah put us in this position, And this is a president that you’ve supported every step of the way, Al. Ah two years ago, every member of the National Security Council advised this president to arm the free Syrian army. Including the Secretary of State, and he went against that advice. Ah every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff advised the President to keep a residual force in Iraq. And he ignored that and he went against that advice. I think this arrogance and this idea of leading from behind doesn’t work. The idea of negotiating with Iran, I think, is a horrendous idea. I think I think the decision by this president and administration to lift the trade embargo on Iran was a terrible, terrible idea.

AF: They did not do that.

MM: Yes they did Al. What they did is they said they said “We’re gonna lift the trade embargo and we’re gonna give you six months to see if you comply with the

AF: We lifted a very, very very minor

MM: Al,

AF: small part of the

MM: Al, Al

AF: of the sanctions

MM: Al, my my one of my best friends, Dan Sullivan, who’s running for the U.S. Senate in Alaska and who’s gonna win, was the Undersecretary of State for Economic Development under Condoleezza Rice, he negotiated these trade sanctions. It took him two years to get ‘em done because

AF: Franken waves hand

MM: because because

KM: Go ahead Senator

MM: because the countries

KM: response, please

MM: in France and Germany, those businesses have been doing business in Iran for hundreds of years.

KM: So no sanction relief at all, even

MM: (unclear)

KM: even though that might open the door

MM: It doesn’t.

KM: to negotiation

MM: You lead

KM: in these talks.

MM: Kerri, ah you lead from strength, not from weakness. What happens is as soon as we lifted those trade sanctions, those companies in Europe immediately started doin business in Iran. The genie’s out of the bottle.

KM: Senator.

MM: You can’t put the genie back in.

KM: Senator, on Iran.

MM: It’s not easy.

AF: This is just woefully inac inaccurate. We did lift a very tiny piece of the sanctions against Iran, the sanctions worked. That’s what got them to the table. Their their economy is crippled.

KM: Do you disagree

MM: I absolutely disagree!

KM: with that, Mr. McFadden?

MM: And look at the paper yesterday. The the U.N. came out, ah Iran’s not allowing us to go in and do the inspections that they said they would do, they they they

KM: Do you disagree that the reason that they are at the table in the talks is because the sanctions were effective?

MM: Ah I I

KM: Do you want some proof?

MM: I believe I believe the sanctions were effective and we should have kept them in place. And we should have gotten a a concessions from them before we lifted the the sanctions.

KM: What would’ve been, what would’ve been their incentive to deal?

MM: Their economy was being crippled. That was that was the incentive to deal, Kerri. And I would’ve kept them in place. And I think

KM: Senator.

AF: (unclear)

MM: This is a fundamental diff — disagreement that I have with Senator Franken

AF: Well, actually it’s a fundamental factual disagreement. The sanctions regime has held. That’s been a strength of this. We’ve held the P5+1 together. There and we’ve also held the coalition of countries, more than the P5+1, the P5+1 are the five permanent,

MM: France and Germany.

AF: are the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany. And we are negotiating with them now. We cannot let them get a nuclear weapon. It is

KM: You both, I assume

MM: And and and

KM: agree on that

MM: and and we’ve not been able to go in and do the inspections

AF: Yes we have. We have been

MM: Look at the paper yesterday in the New York Times, Al! Ah of course we have not been.

AF: Ah —

MM: This is, you are absolutely wrong on this.

AF: This is just a

MM: This this president

AF: just a fundamental

MM: this president has bungled our foreign policy. For six years you have supported him every step of the way. This world is a more dangerous place today because of it. And and and and

CW: And here’s a question to that, Senator. Are you truly satisfied with the President’s response on some of these issues? These foreign policy issues? Are you truly satisfied?

AF: Well, I I think that we reacted slowly to ISIS coming into Iraq. We had a problem, which was that Maliki was the prime minister, and Maliki had so alienated the Sunnis in in the Sunni sect part of Iraq, that that ah they fled and left y’know Iraqi military equipment to ISIS and ah we had a problem. We had to get rid of Maliki and we replaced him – or he was replaced by the Iraqi people by Abadi so they

MM: But then they

AF: we have now a regime there that supposedly is more Sunni-friendly. They’re obviously ah more

MM: So we acted too late with ISIS. That’s clearly the case.

KM: And you disagree with how the President is proceeding on Iran?

MM: Yeah.

KM: Or do you agree with how the President is proceeding on Iran?

MM: So so so so

MM: Yeah but Kerri

KM: Is that what you’re saying?

MM: But Kerri

AF: Well we don’t know if we’re going to be successful in these negotiations with Iran. We have a we have a November fourteenth or something date

KM: Right.

AF: on that, but

MM: But there’s a pattern here. There’s a pattern here. We had an ambassador that was murdered in Benghazi. And we did nothing. And the world watched. This president drew a red line in the sand in Syria – which was crossed. And the President did nothing and the world watched. So it should be no surprise as to what’s happened in the Ukraine, or what’s happened in Gaza, or what’s happened in Iraq and Syria. And you you know what, this is the President who came back from vacation after we had the beheading of two journalists, and when he was asked about our strategy for Syria, said “We don’t have one.”

CW: Senator.

MM: That’s not acceptable. That’s a pattern.

KM: A response, and then we’d like to move on.

AF: Okay. Well he’s been talking about leading from behind. And and crossing the red line. That was when Asaad used chemical weapons against his own people. At that time I said that the, I agreed with the President that we should do some ah limited bombing of of ah Syria. That was an unpopular position that I took. I led. And ah but Mr. McFadden was asked, along with all the other Republican candidates for Senate at the time, by Minnesota Public Radio, what he would do there. Now, he – every one of the other candidates answered. Mr. McFadden didn’t because it was a difficult answer. He was called twice by ah MPR and did not respond. This is a very responsible job

CW: Why didn’t you?


KM: Suggesting that he wanted to get more information? Or suggesting that he wasn’t willing to –

AF: There was no response whatsoever.

MM: Al we get we get asked, you know you’ve been you’ve been a U.S. senator for six years, you ran for the U .S. Senate. I get asked questions by reporters all the time. Through my team. And ah as to I I absolutely support the President when he takes action. We the

AF: This was

MM: This this

AF: the central issue of the moment.

MM: Al Al, you’re – everyone in Minnesota watched you last weekend on the WCCO debate when you were asked whether you supported travel bans from West Africa. And four, excuse me five times in a row, you wouldn’t answer the question directly. So don’t

CW: Why didn’t you answer the question, though, when it was posed to you at the time?

MM: Cathy, I don’t know. I could’ve been at a hockey game, I could’ve been traveling, we get asked

(audience laughs)

MM: questions every all all all the time.

CW (to MM) Hang on. Audience, not not –

MM: All all the time. What what I’m very clear in my view of foreign policy: I believe that we have to not lead from behind. We have to – as soon as that red line, first of all you’ve gotta be very careful about when you draw a red line. In the sand. But as soon as that’s crossed, you have to go in with force.

CW: Can we –

AF: That was the issue that you wouldn’t

MM: Al Al I’ve been I’ve been very clear about this

AF: respond to.

KM: (to AF) Would it be all right with you if we moved on to another topic?

MM: about my about my position on foreign policy.

AF: I’m sorry?

KM: Would it be all right if we moved on to another topic?

AF: Fine, fine with me.

KM: You feel like you covered this sufficiently?

MM: Sure.

AF: Yeah, fine.

KM: All right.

AF: We’re in agreement there.

(audience laughs)

KM: Senator, ah as you know, President Obama has deported nearly two million people who were in the country illegally.

AF: Mm-hmm.

KM: Don’t have documents to be here. If those people don’t have the legal right to be here, is the President doing the right thing?

AF: (pause) We – I’m very proud of the role I played in the bipartisan immigration bill that we passed in the Senate, that we marked up, that we

KM: I’m asking you about his deportation policies,

AF: Yeah, well I

KM: specifically.

AF: I’m I’m talking about we need to have an immigration bill.

KM: Right.

AF: So that we don’t have to deport these people, people who

KM: In the in the absence of an immigration bill, is the President doing the right thing in your view, to deport nearly two million people who don’t have the documents to be here?

AF: Well that’s been over the course of six years.

KM: Yes.

AF: And I think that ah

KM: He’s deported more people than President Bush has. 

AF: He has.

KM: Is he doing the right thing in your view?

AF: Ah I think that there’s prosecutorial discretion that should be exercised, and I do wish that there would be more judgment used to not deport people who have been obeying the law here, other than their status, and who have been contributing – who have family here, who are contributing, y’know we we in our office have stopped a number of deportations for that very reason. For the mother

KM: So

AF: The mother who has her kids here, young kids who she can take care of, I think that it’s bad for them, it’s bad for her,

KM: So the President

AF: I think it’s bad for our community,

KM: I I just I do want some clarity on this

AF: I’ve, I’ve been critical of

KM: He should not be deporting people

AF: There are people

KM: who are here illegally.

AF: There are people who are here illegally who should be deported. But there are, I think that there is prosecutorial discretion that should be used in cases where it doesn’t benefit the community, it doesn’t benefit anybody

KM: So deport the crimin – the people that have committed

AF: Yeah, the people

KM: criminal crimes and leave everybody else here?

AF: No, I

KM: How would you decide?

AF: I would say, for example, which we got waived, we got a woman who was this sort of, who was taking care of her kids. And she was deported and her husband was here, her husband was working. It would have been incredibly difficult for her family

KM: I assume that out of those nearly two million,

AF: and the public would be

KM: there were a lot of people here who had children.

AF: Yeah,

KM: The President sent back.

AF: That’s why, that’s why maybe I’m not making myself clear. (audience laughs) That’s why I’ve been critical

KM: So the President is doing the wrong thing when he deports people who are here without their documents.

AF: No – I’m saying

KM: What are, what are you saying? (audience laughs)

AF: I think it’s being pretty clear.

KM: I’m not clear on this.

CW: (to audience) I don’t like your hisses and booes, okay.

AF: I think I’m being pretty clear that I think that you have to use some judgment. There are some people that should be deported and there are other people that they’re cases where they shouldn’t be. I I don’t understand what’s not clear about that. 

KM: Mr. McFadden?

MM: Well, I I think the President’s role is to execute the law. On on the law. And I think laws have been broken. But I think this raises a broader issue as to the need for immigration reform. Cause I

AF: Mm-hmm.

MM: Y’know I think what Al is going to is it it it tears, as a human, as an individual, as someone that has compassion, that cares about people, I look at these families –I I don’t want to ah separate families. But at the same time I recognize that the law has been broken. And that’s why we need an immigration bill that gets past, that addresses the 11 million people that are here illegally.

AF: Absolutely.

MM: And what I’d like to see is something along the lines of y’know first of all we’ve gotta secure the border.

CW: What does that mean?

MM: What

CW: What does a secure border look like to you?

MM: Well – what it what it looks like is what it didn’t look like in August, when we had people streaming across, these children from from Central America. But – what what it’s a combination of of fences, of ah added border patrol, what I would do is rely on feedback from the Border Patrol, from our armed forces, and from the border – the governors that border those, from the states that border, are bordered with Mexico.

CW: So is that

AF: Can I talk a little bit about

CW: Is that more money, more resources, more people at the border? Is that what that safer border looks like?

MM: Yes, it’s a combination of money and resources.

KM: Senator, just one followup on the deportation if I could,

AF: Okay.

KM: and then we’ll come back. Um, were you one of the Democratic senators who went to the President when he was considering an executive order that would change his policy on deportation? Were you one of the senators who went to him and said “Don’t do that before the election”?

AF: No. I did not go to the President and talk to him about that.

KM: What did you

AF: Can I, can I just

KM: Did you want him to sign that executive order? Changing deportation policy? Because it was reported in Politico that you were one of the senators.


KM: who said “don’t do it.”

AF: I was the senator who said that this should be done by Congress and we need to, I agree with Mike, we need comprehensive immigration reform. But let me say something about border security and about this ah the number of people who came from Central America. They weren’t, this wasn’t a matter of border security. People weren’t streaming across the border. Those people were looking for ah border security to surrender to. That that this was not about – now, our immigration bill will increase the number of border security. I also wrote a piece in the bill, a piece of legislation (to MM) that got passed, an amendment of mine, that would make sure that children have lawyers. And I did this, this was over, well over a year ago, anticipating this, because there were eight-year-old children coming across at that time who literally would have to defend themselves in a court in Texas against a prosecutor who – and and they spoke no English. I’m talking about eight-year-old children. So I got something that was passed, I believe unanimously, in the Judiciary Committee, to change from ah HHS, the Health and Human Services responsibility on this, to the to ah the Department of Justice.

KM: So you both agree that there should be an immigration bill.

MM: Absolutely.

AF: Yes. We’re in total agreement.

KM: Differing in what should be in it.

CW: It was one of the few bills to pass in the Senate. One of the few major bills to pass.

AF: This passed in a very very large bipartisan way, and I’m very proud of that process that we did in the Senate.

CW: The

AF: I’m very disappointed of course in the House. But this was the Gang of Eight, we’re talking about Marco Rubio, we’re talking about Jeff Flake, Senator McCain, ah

CW: (to MM) Excuse me. Would you have supported this Senate bill that passed?

MM: Yes: I would have.

CW: You would have.

MM: Yes.

CW: Okay.

MM: Yes.

CW: I’m curious about a listener

MM: And and and y’know I just furthermore, I mean it was it was Bob Corker and John Hoeven, that came in and brokered the deal, at the they’re two businessmen that became U.S. senators and they put a bill together that got the vote of I think 72 U.S. senators. And we – we have to address immigration. We we we have to. And and and it’s gonna be one of the first

KM: Well, and and then Mr. McFadden, what do you do about the eleven to twelve million people that are already here? And

MM: Well, you you need a series of hurdles that they have to go through. And and that’s what the Senate bill contemplated. There are things, Kerri, like subjecting yourself to a background check, proof of employment, fluency, lessons in civics.

KM: Do they to have to

MM: payment of

KM: quote-unquote go to the end of the line to apply for citizenship?

MM: Yeah. yeah. Once once they go over those hurdles. They’ve they’ve broken the law Kerri, they’ve broken the law. And so there’s penalties have to be paid for breaking the law. And and I think that this is a a compromise that was reached in in the Senate that didn’t move forward in the House.

KM: Right.

MM: And I want to see immigration reform.

KM: You’re listening to the last Senate debate in the 2014 campaign. Senator Al Franken, challenger Mike McFadden are on the stage on the Fitzgerald Theater. I’m Kerri Miller along with Cathy Wurzer.

CW: We like, we’ve had great audience response, we’ve got questions coming in online, and of course here at the Fitzgerald Theater. And they’re great questions, but we want you two at this point of the debate to ask a question of each other if you would, please. Ah Mike McFadden, let’s begin with you. Would you like to ask a question of Senator Franken.

MM: I I would. I would, Senator Franken. Ah Al, I believe one of the biggest issues in this country right now is Washington’s broken. It is hyperpartisan. Nothing’s getting done, what has been produced over a decade is horrendous, whether it’s been a Republican president or a Democratic president, ah (pause) you came into office ah having been a very very partisan radio host. You wrote books such as “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Liar.”

AF: No – (audience begins to laugh)

MM: Ah you you

AF: That was “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot

MM: Big Fat Idiot

AF: and Other Observations.” (audience applauds, cheers). And Other Observations.

CW: laughs, motions for silence from audience

MM: Ah, ah, you told you told Mike Sweeney, the chairman of the Star and Tribune, when he asked you wanna run for the Senate, you said and I I won’t repeat exactly because my mother is in the office, office, but you looked ‘im in the eye and said “Because I hate those right-wing blank-blank.”

AF: No – that is absolutely

MM: Well, you you

AF: totally not true.

MM: You talked to Mike Sweeney and and and and my question is though, you I look at your record in the last six years, you are the most partisan senator in the Democratic Party, no one has voted more with the Democratic Senate Caucus than you, 159 out of the last 161 votes,

KM: And and the question, Mr. McFadden, is what?

MM: How how when you’re, how are you going to work with a Republican-controlled Senate. You couldn’t work across the aisle when you were in the Democrat-controlled Senate. How are you going to be effective ah I believe Minnesota deserves two hard-working effective senators.

KM: End of question?

AF: I I ah work across party lines to find common ground. And have done it in so many pieces of legislation. I teamed up with Senator Lamar Alexander, a Republican of Tennessee, to do the first reform of our workforce training system since 1998. To prepare people to train people for jobs that already exist, that fill the skills gap. I worked with Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican of Mississippi – very conservative. To go after the credit rating agencies, the Wall Street credit rating agencies, which gave triple A ratings to all this junk and caused the meltdown. And that passed through Dodd-Frank.

CW: So you are able to work across party lines?

AF: I worked with – I can go

MM: You’ve worked with Roger Wicker, Deb Fischer, I’ve heard these Pat Roberts, I’ve heard these five examples

AF: Orrin Hatch

MM: in three debates.

AF: Grassley.

MM: Politico Magazine ranked you last place, 100 out of 100 senators, in ability to cosponsor legislation. The facts don’t support what you’re saying. You are the most partisan senator. And the reason that I think this matters

CW: (unclear)

MM: is is because it doesn’t allow you to be effective.

AF: Ah – the metric that you use in an ad, to say that I was the most partisan senator, in that by that metric, Ted Cruz was considered one of the most bipartisan senators (audience murmurs). Now Ted Cruz led the shutdown of the government. I can

MM: What what what this does is, in a Bell curve, you are an outlier here. Ted Cruz is an outlier here.

AF: No no no he’s here (motions up)

MM: You are the Ted Cruz of the Democratic Party.

AF: (motions up) On the radio this makes no sense. (audience laughs)

MM: No. This, this makes a lot of sense. And and and this is this is open Congress. You just go, you can Google it right now. Open Congress, see your voting record. No one has voted more with the Democratic Senate Caucus than you.

KM: Is there some reason why you wouldn’t just own that, Senator, and say “I am elected from a Democratic DFL state, I’m – “

AF: No.

KM: Why?

AF: I won by 312 votes, Kerri. (MM coughs, audience laughs)

CW: (to audience) Hang on, hang on

AF: I I went to Washington to get work done, to work for the people of Minnesota. I vote for Minnesota. What I think is in the best interest of the Minnesota – Minnesota. And I find common ground. And Chuck Grassley

MM: You see, I think I think your partisanship has caused you not to be able to be effective. Amy Klobuchar in her first term reached across the aisle, had seven pieces of legislation become law,

MM: the other seven Democratic senators that were elected in 2008, no one has

AF: (sighs) Okay.

MM: sponsored less legislation than Al Franken.

KM: I think you covered it

AF: Let me just say one thing.

KM: Senator Franken, get on to asking your question.

AF: Can I just say one thing in response?

KM: Yes Sir.

AF: I have – there is a long list of bipartisan work I’ve done. Some which has led to legislation, some has led to better waivers in No Child Left Behind. Here’s the one thing I will do. I find common ground but I will stand my ground because I believe when when when the powerful come after the middle class, and those aspiring to the middle class, I will stand up. And so I am for raising the minimum wage,

KM: I think we we

MM: My dad always said

KM: covered that

MM: watch a person’s actions, not their words. Your actions and outcomes and results don’t support

KM: Senator Franken –

AF: Newsweek called me the

KM: Senator –

AF: most effective in his first year

KM: It’s your turn

AF: of any senator since Phil Gramm.

KM: to ask Mr. McFadden a question.

AF: Okay. Ah, this is my question (shows KM written question) so you know it’s not too long. Okay? (Audience laughs) It’s limited to that. Is that okay?

KM: It’s that it’s those three paragraphs? Wow.

(Audience laughs)

AF: These are, one of the paragraphs is a sentence.

MM: Did you, did you poll it first?

KM: Okay…that’s long. (laughs)

AF: Okay. Ah – we agree that the economy is a central issue in this campaign. And we agree on the importance of manufacturing and energy. But I also believe in the increasing importance of the Information Economy. The internet has always operated under net neutrality, a concept that all concept – all content – will be treated the same. Our debate here is being carried by MPR’s Web site to people listening on a Web site the same speed that a blogger might use from the University of Minnesota Duluth. Facebook was started in a dorm room. YouTube was started over a pizzeria. Startups and small businesses all over Minnesota will tell you that net neutrality is a key to innovation. But, now for the first time, the FCC is considering changing all that by allowing deep I’m sorry fast lanes for deep-pocketed corporations.

KM: And so the question?

AF: A record 3.7 million Americans have filed comments protesting this with the with the FCC, 99% supporting net neutrality. So my question is: how is it, given that the internet has accounted for 21 percent of the GDP –GP growth in mature economies over the years, how is it that you continue to dismiss the importance of an open internet to our 21st Century economy?

KM: Okay. End of question. Mr. McFadden.

MM: I ah I support net neutrality. And and one of the things that I find so frustrating as a businessman, is we have so much regulatory morass in Washington DC, and there’s no certainty. What they need in the internet right now is certainty. I I have supported net neutrality. Let’s get it done. But I gota tell you, as I’ve traveled

AF: Well, it is done.

KM: You’ve

AF: Net neutrality is the architecture

MM: Wh – wh –

AF: of the internet right now.

MM: But I gotta tell ya Al, as as I travel around this state, and I’ve been doing this for 18 months now, you know how many times I’ve been asked when I’ve gone around to all 87 counties in this in this state? About net neutrality? Zero times. And you say we agree on energy. We don’t agree on energy.

KM: But you do agree,

AF: We agree that it’s a big part

KM: it sounds like, on net neutrality.

MM: Yes.

KM: On the Senator’s question.

AF: Well, that is puzzling. Because

MM: Have I ever said I don’t agree with net neutrality?

AF: No, but you’ve dismissed it

MM: No, no I haven’t I haven’t dismissed it. What I said – I could give you so many different examples in in this economy right now, where where regulatory overrun – we we have become a regulatory animal that is out of control in Washington. Business wants certainty. They want rules. You need rules for the internet. net neutrality.

CW: It sounds like you’re kind of agreeing on this.

KM: Right.

CW: I want to just steer the ship in a different direction for just a minute and go back to bipartisanship because – I have a listener question. Eric is his name. 

AF: Mm-hmm.

CW: I’m curious. Is there an issue on which you agree with the other party? Since we’re talking –

AF: Yeah! A lot of it. Ah, for example –

CW: if so, what? Give me one.

AF: I’ll give you a couple. Ah the NSA. On surveillance. Dean Heller, a Republican of Nevada, and I have the number one transparency bill, this is gonna be part of the legislation that we’re probably gonna be taking up when we get back, ah to reform NSA surveillance. Now, I voted against both the programs that Snowden — the metadata program and the program that captured internet traffic of foreign persons who were suspected of being involved in terrorism, not because they didn’t believe they were needed, but because there wasn’t enough transparency. We have to strike a balance between privacy and national security. But if the American people don’t know enough, if there isn’t enough transparency, the American people can’t make that judgment.

KM: Isn’t a lot of that transparency blocked by many of the policies of the Obama administration?

AF: Yes! And I was opposed to them. And that’s why I voted against ah both the those two programs, which the Obama administration wanted us to vote on for. I don’t know if they are captured in this subset of of votes that I voted on that I’ve been – I’ve also, I agree with ah Rand Paul on sentencing on mandatory minimums. I think

CW: Okay.

AF: on drug convictions, on people who, there are people languishing in prison who shouldn’t be there

KM: Okay.

CW: Actually, you touch on something kind of interesting.

AF: Yes.

CW: The NSA. So I want to ask about that in terms of surveillance. Ah by the way – in what cases is it acceptable to conduct warrantless surveillance of citizens? Given the NSA furor? (to MM)

MM: (long pause) Look – Al chairs the Privacy Committee on Judiciary. We have a balance in this country between security and freedom. And and I think we’ve tipped way too far to security, at the expense of freedom. And ah ah I’m I’m very very concerned about warrantless searches of U.S. citizens. Period.

CW: Senator Franken.

KM: Sounds like something you two agree on.

AF: We do. And ah we don’t think there should be warrantless surveillance. (laughs) Me and Dean Heller, (to MM) a Republican of Nevada,

MM: Nevada,

AF: agree that there should not be – and that will be part of Leahy Chairman Leahy’s bill.

CW: And if re-elected, would you vote to re-authorize the Patriot Act, since it sunsets on June first of next year?

AF: There will be elements of it that we, y’know these national security letters should go, I I there there are aspects of it that should go. I do think – and this is why this is a complex issue – it is important. That we protect our national security. It is important. That we sweep up the bad guys. It is important that we do that. I just want the American people

MM: So

AF: to have enough transparency, enough transparency in this to understand exactly enough of what we’re doing.

CW: Mr. McFadden,

AF: To have some comfort level

CW: you were gonna say?

AF: of what’s going on.

MM: Oh, I was sayin, you asked a question, a general question, about bipartisanship, and and the ability to reach across the aisle. Ah I wish I (pause) I wish one of the issues we could find some bipartisanship on is education. Y’know we have the worst outcomes in this country, in this state, for students of color. We – and nobody wants to talk about it. And I think

KM: Who’s not talking about the achievement gap?

MM: Well I talk about it all the time. But you know how many times I’ve been asked about it on interviews? Very very few times. I have to bring it up. I think it’s, I think it’s immoral what’s happening in this state. That we have the lowest graduation rate for Latinos,

KM: Mmm-hmm.

MM: The second lowest for African Americans,

CW: And what does the federal government do about that?

MM: Well, the federal government

CW: It’s a United States Senate.

MM: The federal government has a lot to do about it, Cathy. The the reason y’know ah – I’ve been involved in an inner city high school. By the name of Cristo Rey.

CW: Cristo Rey.

MM: And it’s been a real blessing to me to see what our principal and our teachers – Al, you’d love it – you’d love this school, what our teachers are

AF: I’ve, I’ve heard great stuff about the school.

MM: and and and and our principal have been able to do. Ninety percent of our kids are Latino or African American. We’re in one of the toughest neighborhoods.

KM: So where does the federal government

MM: Well so the federal government

KM: step in 

MM: what I’d like to see is, in broken school districts, that we dramatically increase the number of charter schools. In Minneapolis, we’re spending $21,000 per kid, 64% of the budget is spent on non-teacher expenses, it doesn’t get into the classroom, they get the worst outcomes in the country! I believe it’s immoral and I look at Global Academy, Seton Academy, Hiawatha Academy, KIPP Academy, Harvest Prep – multiple charter schools that are dealing with a similar demographic as Cristo Rey, that are getting similar results. Not just a kinda better way, Kerri, I mean a dramatically better way to do things.

KM: Is that the answer, Senator? To

MM: Let me just, let me just, if I may if I may finish on this. The reason the reason the federal government’s involved here is right now, the way charter schools are funded, they don’t get any local dollars. They get state dollars Kerri and they get federal dollars. And as a U.S. senator, I don’t want federal dollars going into a broken school district. I’d rather see those allocated to dramatically increase the number of charter schools in those areas. So that all children in Minnesota, have the access to a first-class education, regardless of zip code. And nothing – Al has been on the Education Committee for the last six years – he’s complicit in these results. Things aren’t getting better in the inner city. They’re getting worse.

KM: Response, and then we’ll go into the Affordable Care Act.

CW: Go ahead Senator.

AF: Well, I’d like to talk a little about the achievement gap. And I think it is a travesty. That we have such a big achievement gap in Minnesota. We are making some improvement in the state level. Our black fourth graders are fourth in the nation. We have, we were among fourth graders for black and Latinos, we we’re the only state in the country that closed the achievement gap ah among them. Now here – I would like, just like to talk about closing the achievement gap and what I think we should do. Ah early childhood education to me is one of the most important things that we can do. I talked to Angela ah Harvala. You might have heard her name. She won the National Milken Award. Ah, was one of the best teachers in the country. She teaches fifth grade in at Princeton,

CW: Mmm-hmm.

AF: Minnesota. I called her up just to congratulate her, and we started talking about this. And she talked about early childhood education. Art Rollnick, who’s at the University of Minnesota who studies the economics of early childhood education. Tim Penny, whose southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation invests 40% of what they do is on early childhood education. Here is what Art Rollnick has found in terms of return on investment. “A child who has a quality early childhood education is less likely to be special ed, less likely to be left back a grade, has better health outcomes,

CW: Okay.

AF: the girls are less likely to get pregnant, they’re more likely to graduate college – ah high school, more likely to go to college, more likely to have a good job, and pay taxes

CW: So

AF: and much less likely to go to prison.

CW: So Mr. McFadden, do you

AF: So this is

MM: I don’t disagree with that. I think there’s such

CW: is more investment needed in early childhood education?

MM: Look, there’s nothing more important than our children. There’s nothing more important than our children and our investment, all our children, regardless of zip code.
Early childhood education is a very important part of the equation. But what everyone in this state needs to know, and I’m telling ya Kerri and Cathy, cause I’ve gone around this whole state, so few people know that we have the worst outcomes in the country for students of color. And we’re spending $21,000 per child in the Minneapolis school district

CW: And the answer in your view is more money into charter schools.

MM: Yeah, I I wanna revolutionize how we do education

CW: Senator, is that is that the way to resolve that?

AF: I have nothing against charter schools. My daughter runs ah the after-school programs at three charter schools in Washington D.C. They are very successful.

KM: How about the idea that Mr. McFadden has

AF: But hang on

MM: But but nothing has been done, nothing has been done for six years while you’ve been in Washington.

KM: Specifically, though

AF: Actually, actually we’ve done some very good things in terms of — there’s other areas that we need to talk about, but the fact

MM: The outcomes are atrocious! They’re immoral, what’s happening!

KM: Is it, is it possible that you could

AF: Can I just

KM: could you address the suggestion that he made, though, about investing more money into charter schools?

MM: Allocating dollars.

AF: I would like to.

KM: Go ahead.

AF: Okay. Thank you. (audience laughs) Ah charter schools also have spotty records. We have some very successful charter schools and we have some that aren’t very good. And when that happens, and a kid goes to a charter school that fails them, that public school money goes to – I I want

MM: What what what what

AF: to make sure that our

CW (to MM) Hang on.

AF: I want to make sure (laughs) I’m sorry, I want to make sure that our public schools ah get what they need. And what I want to work on, are here’s the areas where I would work: on assessments, we made a lot of progress

CW: Quick answer.

AF: over the last several years on making sure that we’re measuring each kid’s growth instead of holding every kid responsible

MM: The results are horrendous!

KM: Mr. McFadden…

MM: You’ve been in office for six years, we have the worst outcomes

AF: That’s not accurate

MM: And we, we pioneer charter schools in Minnesota. And yes, there’s some charter schools that are not good. But we’ve been doin it for 20 years now and we have multiple multiple multiple examples of ones that are doin great things. And we should replicate ‘em as fast as we can. As you keep talkin about all these different things that the federal government can do. In terms of — our kids aren’t getting a great education.

KM: Do do either of you think Race to the Top has helped?

MM: No.

KM: Why not?

AF: I think so.

KM: You do, Senator?

AF: I think it has put money into things that like early childhood education, for example, we won a Race to the Top grant ah that is ah helping our early childhood education in Minneapolis and St. Paul

KM: Mr. McFadden,

MM: I wanna

AF: and and

KM: four billion dollars in taxpayer money so far

MM: Yeah.

KM: Has it — do you see any evidence that it has

MM: No, I don’t think we’re gettin a return that we deserve for that. It’s a lot of money. And here Kerri here’s y’know – we spend a lot on education in this country. We spend a lot in this state. And we should. They’re our children. But the outcomes we’re getting are unacceptable. And I’m so tired – for 30 years I’ve been hearing about how things are gonna get better, we need more money more money. It’s not a money issue. It’s a results issue.

CW: Say, speaking of money, I’ve got a quick audience question. “Many of us are struggling with unfair student loan repayment plans. What can be done, and what will you do?” Mike McFadden, quick answer.

MM: Ah, well I’d like to see students be able to refinance their loans. I’d also like to see more transparency at the college levels, as a father of six kids, three of ‘em are in college, ah y’know education at colleges, college educations, have gone up something like 2-1/2 times the rate of inflation for over 20 years. And it’s the most opaque industry. Y’know, you don’t find out what your financial aid package is until the very end, and there’s no transparency. I would like colleges to have to let students know what their job placement is, by major, and what their what what percent of their kids are getting hired and what their average salaries are. So that students can make an informed decision.

KM: So you’re talking about legislation to require colleges to disclose that.

MM: Yes.

KM: At at what point? The college visit? When?

MM: Ah ah I’d like it I’d like to be on the publicly available information so that you can go and find pricing. Just like

KM: Is this something that you two agree on again?

AF: This is actually something that is a piece of legislation that I’ve offered that Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa,

MM: Yep.

AF: and Marco Rubio Marco Rubio, is on another one on transparency, it’s called the Net Cost Calculator. And what it does is, you can a lot of students don’t go to a college because they think they’re gonna be priced out of it. But you can require, what I wanna do is require colleges on their Web page to put a Net Cost Calculator so you can figure out how much it’s gonna cost you. Now Marc

KM: So you two agree on this?

AF: Well, not only do we agree on it, I’ve acted on it and had legislation that’s bipartisan.

KM: And –

AF: Marco Rubio has

MM: But it hasn’t turned into law yet

AF: Not yet, but we are

MM: I mean, there’s a lot of

AF: We are marking up, we are going to be marking up a higher education bill ah, it’s very

CW: Do you agree about refinancing with Mr. McFadden? Do you agree that students should be able to refinance their student loans?

AF: I introduced the bill in the Senate to refi – so to allow 560,000 Minnesotans to refinance their student loans. Mr. McFadden has criticized me for this, and he’s criticized me because – Elizabeth Warren and I did this – and we pay for it because the actual federal government makes profits off these student loans, so we have to pay for it, and the way we pay for it is the Buffett Rule.

KM: We’re we’re

AF: Now the Buffett Rule

KM: We’re a little short on time, I’d like to get one more topic in. Could you

AF: Well he (to MM) would protect people who make over a million dollars a year, which is the top one quarter of one percent in Minnesota, so that

MM: Al, I I I would like, I would like to see

AF: 560,000 Minnesotans can’t refinance their student loans.

MM: If if if the federal government’s making money off of it, then there’s no issue. Then there’s money there to pay for this. The federal government’s a 3-1/2 trillion dollar budget, and the way – you you have not been a good fiduciary of that or steward of that budget

KM: Okay.

MM: over the last six years.

KM: Could, we’re we’re a little short on time.

AF: You need to offset it.

KM: I’m gonna

MM: No you just said they’re makin a profit on it.

AF: Because that money is

KM: We don’t have as much time as I had hoped, gentlemen, to talk about the Affordable Care Act, but I do have a question that I think will produce a shorter answer. I hope.

AF: sighs.

KM: Honeywell has a new health benefits rule under the Affordable Care Act. Where they’re going to penalize employees who won’t agree to blood and medical tests to identify whether they smoke or have diabetes or high blood pressure or other problems. Honeywell can do this under the ACA, and they say they need to do it to bring their healthcare costs under control. Are they doing the right thing? Senator?

AF: Well, the one area that we’re we are trying to bring healthcare costs down are in areas of preventable diseases. And ah we’re not penalizing someone for having a pre-existing condition. But the one area where you do have to pay more for your policy is if you smoke.

KM: So is Honeywell doing the right thing, in instituting these new rules?

AF: I’m not sure that (laughs) a blood test is is the right way to go. I would ah try to go on the honor system. I think that

CW: There’s a minute left before I need to get out of this part.

MM: The the the Affordable Care Act is the the cost – we have a healthcare issue in this country. Al knows it, Kerri you know it, Cathy you know it. I just fundamentally believe that the ACA is not the right solution.

KM: Is a company like Honeywell

MM: And and and

KM do you believe in trying to control healthcare costs

MM: I think they’re trying

KM: doing the right thing?

MM: They have to – I believe that that’s their right to do.

KM: Okay.

MM: If they want to do it – we have we have a huge cost issue with healthcare in this country. That we have to address, and people have to have skin in the game. And they have to understand that if they have certain behaviors, that it’s gonna cost more. It’s their right to participate in those behaviors.

KM: (to AF) You say they should not be using the rules this way. Briefly.

AF: I y’know, I feel a little queasy about it. About forcing employees to take blood tests. But no – this this is the one area where we’re saying if you smoke, you pay

MM: When you get, when you get life insurance, and you go, you you you have to take blood tests. I mean you can decide not to – and then you pay the penalty on it. I, we have a cost issue. Y’know, PreferredOne’s up 63% and healthcare costs

CW: I want to ask you, we need to get into closing statements here

AF: Okay.

CW: because we’re running out of time. I’m sorry gentlemen.

AF: Wow. Sorry.

CW: Senator Franken, I want you to begin your closing statement at this point, and then I’ll go to Mr. McFadden.

AF: Well, I want to, I wanna thank the people of Minnesota for the honor of representing you in the United States Senate. I know that ah some Minnesotans didn’t know quite what to expect from me – ah but I think most have seen that I work hard. And I work hard for the benefit of all Minnesotans. Ah to reform the workforce training system in our country. To write the Energy Title on the bipartisan Farm Bill to make sure that our schoolchildren can get mental health treatment in our schools. Ah I’ve gone – I’ve fought for common ground, but I also will fight to stand my ground when powerful interests come after the middle class. I believe that the economy works

KM: Okay.

AF: from the middle out, not the top down, I ah I hope that your audience will vote for me, so it will give me the honor of returning to the United States Senate

KM: Thank you.

AF: to work for Americans, for Minnesotans who simply want the opportunity to build a better life. Thank you.

KM: Mr. McFadden.

MM: Cathy, Kerri, Al, thank you. I really appreciate the audience. I thank you, you’ve been very professional. I I think the decision is simple here. If you believe the President has done a good job, then vote for Al Franken. If you believe the hyperpartisan Congress in Washington is doin a good job, then vote for Al Franken. I fundamentally believe that we could be doing so much better. In this country and in this state. Ah I believe that with the right leadership we could have energy independence. We can have a first-class education for all students, regardless of zip code. That we can have effective and efficient government. I want to streamline regulation to unleash our economic potential. I’ll get the mines open, I’ll get the pipelines built, and I’ll also get the EPA out of the farmers’ fields. I believe our best days are ahead of us. If we have

KM: (unclear)

MM: the right leadership in Washington. I’m Mike McFadden and I’m running for the U.S. Senate. (KM laughs) Thank you.

KM: All right! Senator Al Franken, Mike McFadden, thank you

Audience applauds, cheers as candidates and moderators shake hands.

Behind the scenes before and after the big debate:

Click here for shareable version of this video

One moment that got a laugh from the audience was this exchange. McFadden was asking Franken a question and while trying to set up the question (about partisanship) he recalled that Franken had written a book called “Rush Limbaugh is a big fat liar”. Franken quickly corrected him and said no, the book was called “Rush Limbaugh is a big fat idiot and other observations”.

Click here for sharable version of this video

Post-debate comments from the candidates

Senator Al Franken and Mike McFadden each held short separate meetings with reporters after the debate ended.
Here is a video of Al Franken’s post-debate comments:

Click here for a sharable version of this video


Reporter: Easy question. How did it go?

Franken: You know it went so fast. I thought it was, you know, um a good discussion. These things do go fast and you know I like to think about these things in all their complexity and that’s hard to boil down sometimes and I’m not saying that’s necessarily I want to go a little long on these things, but I think that a lot of these issues, I mean certainly if you’re talking about the Sunnis and Shias and what’s going on now in Syria and what’s going on that region. You can have … it’s complex.

On the news today McFadden’s going to file a complaint he said tomorrow with the FEC about an ad, what’s your response to the improper coordination….

We did not coordinate with them. Followed the law. The images that they used are in the public domain. You remember when McConnell did those things where he smiles. That’s the kind of thing, you know, those images are public domain anyone can use them.

What are you going to do tomorrow?

Franken: Ah… don’t confuse me with someone who knows the schedule. (laugh)

It sounded tonight like you guys agreed on quite a few issues

We did. I was very surprised on net neutrality. I didn’t quite understand why he … if he agrees with me why he has taken sort of the dismissive view of it.

You looked a little incredulous. Do you think he understands the issue?

Franken: Well, um, I, I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean because it sounded kind of confused because he said we need more federal regulation or less federal regulation or something. You know that issue is about what the FCC whether it will consider the internet a common carrier. There are certain things that the circuit court has ruled in overturning net neutrality before. They say how the FCC can use its power to establish net neutrality and I don’t think… I’m not quite sure that he understand that.

You say he’s dismissive. What do you mean?

We’ll he’s been saying no one cares about this and I don’t know why Franken is bothering to discuss it. And to me, we live in an information economy. About 21 percent of new growth in maturing economies…there was a study by Mackenzie in the last five years this is the most recent that they did… 21 percent of new GDP was the internet. And so, in that report Mackenzie talked about the importance of policymakers of government of business addressing the infrastructure, the eco system, of the internet. And this is obviously a very, very key um, the key issue to me on the internet is net neutrality. It’s not just our economy, but freedom of speech. It has a lot of of of significance for both of those issues – our economy and the innovation. You know the innovation that’s taken place on on the internet has happened not just while the internet was in…. while net neutrality was in place, but because of it.

Franken Handler: One more

Reporter: You mentioned almost a dozen Republican Senators tonight. Is this an effort to distance from that 97 percent that has just been hammered in the airwaves?

It’s just to talk about the kind of work I’ve done. I mean there are some I didn’t mention. Johnny Isakson did that service dog bill very early on. I don’t think I mentioned Johnny. Johnny is a very good friend of mine. You know, I, there are lots of issues that you talk about and legislate about that really don’t have a partisan aspect to them. Filling the skills gap. Let’s talk about workforce training. I would go on the floor and go ‘do you have a skills gap in your state’ and no matter who I went to, there was Crapo from Idaho, if it was Boozman from Arkansas, if it was Lamar from Tennessee, yes are your community and technical colleges partnering with businesses to fill these gaps? Yes. Have you gone to them and talked to them and seen that they could use… do this bigger, better and faster if they, if the ones that were successful had more funding. Yes. Why don’t we get it into the workforce bill?

There is a Republican from North Carolina, a House member who is.. Virginia Fox … who is really, really, really conservative. She happened to be the president, in her … before she was in congress … the president of a community and technical college. So she was all aboard this. And so this is, you know, I work on a bipartisan basis like on a ag bill, on renewable fuel standards, this is, this is an issue where I’ve been fighting with the administration and where people like Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, you know John Hoeven, Thune, all of these Republicans agree with me and I’ve been fighting with the administration on this.

Thanks everybody.

And video of Mike McFadden’s post-debate comments:

Click here for a sharable version of this video


Reporter: It’s the end of the race and you guys agree on everything now. What’s going on?

McFadden: There’s a lot we don’t agree on. Fundamentally we don’t agree on the direction of this country. I think the president’s not done a good job. I think Senator Franken has been a rubber stamp for this president and I believe this economy could be doing so much better. So, so I want to get an opportunity to go to Washington and implement my vision for this country.

Reporter: I think Senator Franken, we just asked him about it, he name dropped about a dozen Republicans Senators. Does that have any validity?

McFadden: Probably the same ones. I could probably repeat ’em.

Reporter (laughs) Well does that hold any validity for you?

McFadden: No I don’t think it does. He’s been there for six years and he always talks about the same six – Roger Whittaker, Lamar Alexander , Deb Fischer… ah… he’s been there for six years and the facts are that over his first term he’s had zero pieces of legislation that he sponsored turn into law. Amy Klobuchar during her first term had seven pieces of legislation turn into law. Those are the facts. More facts: the other seven Senators, Democratic Senators, that were elected with Senator Franken in 2008, if you look in to it, he has sponsored the least amount of legislation of any of them. And there’s only one other Senator, Kay Hagen who I think is going to get beat in North Carolina, is the only other one to have zero pieces of their legislation turn into law. Every other Senator that was elected in his class has a better record.

Reporter: He was pretty adamant tonight that that’s not true. What’s the discrepancy here?

McFadden: Well, I, I, I based on, on the facts. He’s talking about things that he’s still working on that have not turned, that have not turned into law. I think a bigger issue is that he hasn’t been to 87 counties. He doesn’t do it every year. Amy Klobuchar, Senator Klobuchar sets the standard for work ethic in this state. And I can’t tell you the number of times people have complained to me that they have not seen Senator Franken, but they have seen Senator Klobuchar and I believe that Minnesota deserves two hard working Senators.

Reporter: If she were up this year instead of Senator Franken, would you have run?

McFadden: That’s a hypothetical question Doug. I don’t know

Reporter: You didn’t (inaudible)?

McFadden: I, I don’t know. I mean ask me when she runs and I’ll give you an answer.

Reporter: You didn’t use the 97 percent number tonight. Why is that?

McFadden: What is that?


I don’t… I think I need to use that. It’s engrained in people’s head. He’s been an absolute rubber stamp for President Obama and if, if you believe the president is doing a good job then re-elect Al Franken. If you believe that Congress is doing a good job then re-elect Al Franken. If you don’t think hyper-partisanship is an issue in this country then re-elect Al Franken. I believe those are huge issues. I don’t think the president is doing a good job. I don’t… I think the hyper-partisanship in congress is a problem. A significant problem, and we all lose in America as a result of that and I’m going to go to Washington and, and, and work on getting this economy back onto the path of growth and prosperity.

Reporter: You know, Amy Klobuchar is a Democrat who votes, you know, 96 percent of the time …

McFadden: No it’s not 96 percent of the time.

Reporter: 95? It’s in the high 90s. You know it’s by that standard. But so anyways the point is she’s got a D behind her name, what makes her so different? I mean she votes for all same judicial nominees. She votes for all the same pieces of budget (inaudible) as Franken does.

McFadden: She.. she’s … Amy Klobuchar voting record… ah when you look at the… go to open congress … and you look at the number of votes that she’s taken the Democratic Senate caucus and compare it to Al Franken he’s number one. He’s in a universe of one. He’s the most partisan Senator in the Democratic Senate. Amy Klobuchar was, ah… because she’s been able to reach across party lines, she in her first term had seven pieces of legislation turn into law. She’s effective. There’s a big contrast there. She works really hard and goes around this state, goes to all 87 counties. I think she sets the standard for work ethic. I, I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve been told by people they just haven’t seen him.

McFadden handler: One more question

Reporter: National Republican groups haven’t put the same type of money into this race that that they have into many other nations across the nation. Do you think that’s a sign that on the national level those organizations don’t believe that you can win on Tuesday?

McFadden: Well, Kyle I was on with Sean Hannity on Friday and what I told Sean Hannity is when you, people in Minnesota wake up on Wednesday November 5th and I’m the next Senator from this great state of Minnesota, Minnesotans won’t be surprised. America might be surprised, but Minnesotans won’t’ be surprised.

Thank you I appreciate it.

Reporter: One last question on net neutrality. I asked you on Friday about it. Have you changed positions on that? Net neutrality? This is the first time I’ve heard you kind of say you support net neutrality where as on Friday you essentially dismissed it.

McFadden: I just… what I told you on Friday was that its an issue I have never been asked about on the trail. Not one time in 18 months. Net neutrality – we need to have certainty on the net. Business needs certainty. I support net neutrality. But when I’m going around this state Abby, and people are asking me questions they want to know about the economy, they want to know how get a better job , they want, they want to, they talk about security and safety. Those are the issues that I’ve been dealing with. So, ah hopefully that’s and answer to your question:

Uptake: Does that mean you oppose the FCC regulations?

McFadden: Thank you

Independence Party candidate Steve Carlson was not invited to participate in the debate. He showed up anyhow and offered his views on the topics that were discussed:

Click here for shareable version of this video

Live Blog Final Franken And McFadden Debate

Thank you to MAPE for sponsoring our debate coverage.

Thank you to MAPE for sponsoring our debate coverage.

Thank you to AFSCME Council 5 for sponsoring our debate coverage

Thank you to AFSCME Council 5 for sponsoring our debate coverage

Michael McIntee

Michael McIntee is a former network TV news executive with more than 30 years of broadcasting experience. He began his broadcasting career at the University of Minnesota's student radio station. He is an expert producer, writer, video editor who has a fondness for new technology but denies that he is a geek. More about Michael McIntee »

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