It used to be automatic. As sure as it would snow every winter, Minnesota’s Iron Range would elect a Democrat to congress. Rep. Jim Oberstar won 18 elections in a row. But redistricting and a changing political climate has made Minnesota’s eighth congressional district harder to predict than Duluth’s November weather. The district has flipped back and forth between Democrats and Republicans three times in the last three elections. Rep. Rick Nolan (DFL) is the incumbent this time, and his Republican challenger is political newcomer Stewart Mills, a young millionaire whose family runs the Mills Fleet Farm stores.
Spending from outside groups has been intense in the race, fueling hours of negative TV ads — yet the two candidates have yet to debate each other directly. That changed on Tuesday when the two met along with Green party candidate Ray “Skip” Sandman in their only scheduled debate of the season.
Playlist by topic from the debate.
Click on the icon in the upper left corner to show the various topics in the debate, then click on the topic you want to watch.
Transcript by Susan Maricle
MN 08 Debate:
SM = Stewart Mills III, Republican Party Candidate
RN = Rick Nolan, U.S. Representative, Democratic Party
RS = Ray “Skip” Sandman, Green Party Candidate
MOD = Moderator
MOD: Good morning and welcome everybody. I’m Roger Wedin, Director of Policy and Education at the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce. I’d like to welcome you to this morning’s forum. Introduce my friend and fellow moderator Chuck Frederick, who’s the Editorial Page Editor from the Duluth News Tribune, our partner in presenting these forums.
Some acknowledgments this morning. I’d certainly like to thank our friends at the Duluth Playhouse for allowing us the use of their facility. They’ve been very generous and gracious in helping us with the logistics of these forums. I’d also like to thank our friends at the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation and their Speak Your Peace Civility Project. You were each handed a leaflet on the way in that laid out some expectations of behavior this morning. And I’d like to remind you of those expectations. Please hold your applause until the very end. I’ll close us out after the final remarks from our candidates. And then allow you to please express your appreciation. We won’t tolerate any shouting or heckling, no disruptive behavior of any kind will be tolerated.
Chuck, with that maybe you could start us off.
MOD: Thank you Roger. I just wanted to mention that I’ve already seen you – you weren’t allowed to bring signs into the theater. Holding up your T-shirt is like holding up a sign and we won’t tolerate that either. I hope you have another shirt on underneath, of course, but (audience laughs)
I I wanna welcome those watching at duluthnewstribune.com and MyNine on television. I welcome our candidates, I thank you so much for being here. It’s a great part of the the the democratic process. I want to point out, a woman in the front row, Kris Vereecken, she’s our timekeeper. And she will hold — she’ll be the only one allowed to hold up a sign. She’ll hold up signs letting you know you have thirty seconds left, a minute left to speak, and then when your time is up. And we’ll, so keep an eye on her, and you got a good sight line to her.
As I mentioned, candidates’ answers will be timed, opening statements are gonna be two minutes. There will be no rebuttals on opening statements. Questions will be two minutes and then we’ll offer each candidate, all the candidates, a chance for a one-minute rebuttal. And then at the end we’ll have two and a half minutes for closing.
Congressman Nolan, as the incumbent, we gave you the opportunity or the option of either speaking first or having the final say at the end. You or your campaign chose to have the final say. So then to decide who is speaking first this morning, we flipped a coin, Roger and I did last week, and Mr. Sandman won the honor of speaking first at the opening here.
So with that, we’ll get started. We’ll start with opening remarks. Kinda it’s two minutes to kinda to introduce who you are, what your top priorities are, your reasons for running, whatever you want to say for two minutes. And Mr. Mr. Sandman, we’ll start with you Sir.
RS: Thank you. Well first of all, thank you for being here in the debate at Duluth Playhouse. I’m Ray “Skip” Sandman, I’m a resident of Duluth, been here for twenty-five years, I’m a Vietnam vet, a Tribal Elder, and my opening remark is that as a lot of you know, I opposed the PolyMet mine up there, the copper sulfide mining. I’m for women’s equal rights, debt reduction for the students and student loans, and we’ll go from there.
MOD: Thank you very much. Congressman.
RN: Ah (clears throat) I’d like to begin by thanking the Duluth Chamber and Duluth Tribune for getting us all together and giving everybody a chance to see the candidates and where they stand on the various issues.
(Clears throat) Ah the choice in my judgment in this election contest really could not be more clear. Ah the fact is, and it’s undisputable, the rich are getting richer in this country. And the poor are getting poorer. And the middle class is getting crushed. And with that, the American dream is getting crushed. And the American dream is not all about everybody makin a super million or a super billion, although there’s nothing wrong with that. The American dream is all about having a secure job with a living wage. Being able to provide healthcare for your family. To be comfortable that you’ll be able to secure be secure in your retirement years. To be able to send your kids to a good affordable school and get a good education. To belong to a union again and to have some money at the end of the week when you’re done paying your bills to do a little recreation or go to dinner with your family and friends.
My dad once told me when I (clears throat) first went into public life, he said, “Son, if you just do a couple of things I’ll always be proud of you. One is be honest. Tell the truth. Number two, he said, work for the working men and women in this country. He said, be their champion. Don’t worry too much about the rich and the powerful. They do a good job of taking care of themselves.
This election contest, I submit, is a question of who are you for. Our primary opponent here in this contest, Mr. Mills, has made it clear who he’s for. He has said he wants more tax cuts for super-millionaires and billionaires. And yet at the same time he opposes an increase in the minimum wage. The choice could not be more clear. Ah if you know who you’re for, you’ll know who to vote for in this election contest. I thank you for the opportunity, we’re gonna have a spirited debate. And I assure you and promise you it will be civil. I’m lookin forward to it. Thank you.
MOD: Thank you Congressman. Mr. Mills.
SM: Ah thank you, thank you so much for having me here today. I’m somebody who never thought ever of running for public office. Ah I’m the vice president of our family’s company, Mills Fleet Farm. My dad and my uncle started it in 1955. It’s hard work, sweat of the brow, re-investing back in our business. As a little kid, I grew up working the business. Cleaning toilets, sweeping floors, washing cars. Had just about every job there, and my current job right now is Vice President. And one of the things, one of the many hats you wear in a family business, is well ah I should say, in a family business you wear many hats. Ah and one of those many hats I wear as Vice President is looking out for our six thousand employees. And one of those hats is Plan Administrator of our company’s self-insured health plan. I have seen firsthand how Obamacare has affected negatively our employees and their families. And not only that, I have seen all throughout our part of Minnesota how people have been negatively impacted by it. Higher premiums, higher co-pays, higher deductibles, skinnier networks, they’re paying more, they’re getting less.
Congressman Nolan, well he wants a single-payer model. Government run. Every time government has tried to assume the control or the production of a product, good or service, every time, costs have gone up and quality has gone down. There’s never been an exception to that and anybody who’s ever studied economics knows that.
Also, I got outspoken about Second Amendment issues. Congressman Nolan gets back to ah Congress and he wants to ban semiautomatic rifles, the ones he thinks that look scary, and have the government tell us how many bullets we can have in our gun. That earned him a failing grade, an F rating, from the National Rifle Association.
In our family, we have something called the Hunting Camp Doctrine. If at hunting camp, you complain about something, you get the job to fix it. So that’s why I’m here today. Underneath the Hunting Camp Doctrine. I’ve been complaining about it. So I’m off the bench, putting skin in the game, and I’m gonna go to Washington, and you know what? There’s a lot of things that we have to stand up for for our part of Minnesota. And Congressman Nolan is wrong on so many of those issues. Thank you.
MOD: Thank you all very much. We you’ve touched on some of the issues we’re going to get to.
MOD: Ah, we’re gonna begin this this debate, this candidate forum, by talking a little bit about some of the accusations that are out there, some of the ugly charges that are out there, some of the maybe negative stereotypes. And I’d like you to to address those. Congressman Nolan, this isn’t necessarily me talking, but they say you’re you’re as far left as the Tea Partiers are right, you’re a has-been, an enemy of the Second Amendment, and you don’t even know how to hold a gun safely Sir, how do you respond to critics who say you’ve been wrong for the Eighth District?
RN: Well (clears throat), let me, I’m not sure where to begin, there’ve been so many charges. (laughter)
MOD: So many insults, I know.
RN: Yeah. Ah, there’s a hundred and ninety one members of the Democratic caucus and ah about a hundred of them are judged to be considerably more liberal than I am. So, ah the fact is, I’m a moderate. And I do have a right-wing Tea Partier on my, on my, I guess he’s on my – (to camera) he’s on your right, okay? (off camera laughter) He’s on my left. And I, I guess I got someone probably a little more to the left to me on my right. Or your left. But y’know, I I just – I just – (laughs) not sure where where to go here.
But let’s let’s just take the “F” rating from the NRA. Ah, the NRA is primarily financed by gun manufacturers and gun salespeople. Like yourself, Stewart. They’re interested in primarily trying to sell guns. And ah, that’s all right. I mean, they’ve got a right to do that. But it’s never been more clear that someone like myself supports the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. Ah, some of my most joyful moments and memorable moments in life have been with a gun in my hand. I was out with my dad last weekend, my wife Mary and I were out duck hunting with our grandson. Y’know ah my wife and I were married thirty years ago. First present I bought for her on her birthday, her first birthday was a twenty-gauge shotgun. And ah I don’t mind telling ya she she was thrilled to have it. But she did look a little disappointed, y’know I think she was kind of hopin for something a little more romantic. So on her second birthday I bought her a thirty-aught-six with a scope on it. (audience laughs)
Stewart, I’ve been buying my guns and my ammunition and my family and I from your dad and your granddaddy’s store all of our life. And the fact is, I support the Second Amendment. For hunting, for personal protection, for sports shooting, it’s a fundamental basic right. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have some gun safety. Like background checks. I mean, do you support selling guns to people who have been found to be criminally insane or terrorist or convicted felons?
MOD: Congressman, we’ll we’ll get to the gun issue in just a bit but your time is up. I’m sorry to say. Mr. Mills, the knock against you: millionaire partier, ah doesn’t know the challenges faced by most Americans, ah you support tax breaks for the rich at the expense of the middle class – how do you respond to critics who say you won’t work for the Eighth District?
SM: Well, ah I’ve worked hard all my life. And in our business we didn’t have a choice. It was something we did at a very young age. My father grew up during the Great Depression. And work was not only a necessity but a virtue. I know how to work hard but I’ve also had a very joyful life. Ah, but y’know it’s we live in a work hard/play hard part of Minnesota. And ah y’know if they want to pick on my hair, (off camera laughter) well it shows they don’t want to talk about the issues. And there are things that are facing our part of Minnesota. And the issues are: it’s healthcare. It’s Obamacare. It’s our Second Amendment rights, which we’ll talk about later. It’s the fact that Rick Nolan voted for a job-killing carbon tax, a tax on energy, that would absolutely strangle our part of Minnesota economically.
And it’s also about the fact, and I’m endorsed by the Farm Bureau, it’s about the fact that Representative Nolan voted in favor, voted in favor of the waters, the EPAs, waters of the US role. Y’know, I’d love to talk about this issue, not about my hair, and the fact that my family, myself included, because a family business isn’t about one person or one generation, it’s about the entire family. And even family farms, that applies to family farms as well. We work hard, we re-invest back in our businesseses, and that grows jobs and sustains the jobs that we have.
But you know what? They want to attack a business. Again, we’re we’re not publicly traded. There’s no venture capital money. There’s no private equity money. It’s a family business like any other. And if they want to attack me and my family for the success and the jobs that we’ve created, well, then that’s their message. Their message is picking on my hair.
MOD: Thank you. I forgot to ask about your hair. Thank you for bringing it up. (SM and audience laugh)
MOD: Mr. Mr. Sandman, you have even longer hair –
(candidates and audience laugh)
MOD: – but ah
RS: Yes I do.
MOD: I I think what do you say to critics who who accuse you of just being a one-issue candidate, it’s all environment, anti-mining and then that’s about it?
RS: Well, it’s a very big issue, and critics who call me a lot of different things. But I look if we don’t have water, we don’t have life. When I was a veteran in the service, I had to stand up in front of a bunch of people, and I had to raise my hand and I took that oath to protect this country from foreign and domestic. That means a lot to me, ‘cause I was never released from that oath. Therefore I see what’s happening up there and propose what’s going to happen up there on the Iron Range as a direct attack on America. They’ll come in, they’ll do their ah processing and extracting. But then when that’s done, they pack up and leave. They don’t care about the people. They don’t care about the mining. They don’t care about the environment.
We have, we do not have the science to clean up a spill. If you look at history of that type of mining throughout the world there’s never been a safe one. And for the life of me, I cannot understand how two to five hundred jobs are worth our future. Once that stuff gets into the water, there’s no guarantee. It’ll destroy our tourism, which brings in to northern Minnesota about two hundred to eight hundred million dollars a year. How many jobs will be lost when it leaks? How many?
Doesn’t matter which party you are. But we have to do the right thing. Both my opponents here ah say something completely different. Short-term. I don’t. I look for a long-term. We need that here in northern Minnesota. We need someone lookin after our children, and after our future generations. It may not happen in our time, but twenty thirty years down the road, it will.
MOD: Thank you very much. Mr. Sandman, we’ll get back to the mining issue in a minute. Ah, in the meantime, I’m going to offer each of the candidates a chance for a one-minute rebuttal, up to one minute if they want it, on these negative type stereotypes and their responses to it. Congressman Nolan, would you like one minute?
RN: Yeah. Yeah, I would. Ah, y’know Mr. Mills says he’s, there’s never been a federal government program that worked. Stewart, I submit you might want to take a look at Social Security. You might want to take a look at Medicare, and I know your party platform calls for privatizing and abolishing both of them. Most people would agree, they work quite well. With regard to clean air clean water, I remember when they had to haul clean water. Drinking water into Duluth. Because the water was so polluted. I remember when the lakes and rivers were so polluted that they were catchin on fire. And that acid rain was destroying our forest and lakes.
I don’t apologize for supporting clean water and clean air. I’ve got a good environmental record as you’ll find of anyone in the country. And I don’t apologize for that. And as for the ACA? My goodness! Y’know people with ah cancer and ah heart disease and Parkinson’s are now are able to get affordable insurance because of that. People are able to keep their kids on on their insurance. People are protected from from bankruptcy. Ah women are not charged more for the same policy that a man is charged for. Uh, you really oppose those things and want to repeal all those important advancements?
Of course there’s things that needed to be changed in the Affordable Care Act. But it’s done a lot of good for a lot of people, and I’ve heard you say that there are not many people who suffer those circumstances. Well, I’m here to tell ya that there are a lot of people who suffer those circumstances, and are grateful for the Affordable Care Act and I’m proud to have supported it.
MOD: Thank you, thank you very much Congressman. Mr. Mills, one minute.
SM: Ah yes, just to correct a couple things. First of all, I never said there aren’t many people that have pre-existing conditions. What I said is that as plan administrator, there are few people that I’ve run across that are not covered by HIPAA, which allows you to go from your existing plan to another plan without having to worry about pre-existing conditions. Also, I never said there was a federal government program that never worked.
RN: You just said that -
RN: – a minute ago.
SM: Hold on, may I have some time, Sir?
SM: What I said was, whenever government has taken over the production of a product, good or service, costs have gone up and quality has gone down. I’m not talking about Social Security and Medicare, ah in the past you have said that I wanted to abolish Social Security. That is absolutely not true. And you’ve also said that I want to turn Medicare into a voucher system. Not true. And I challenge you to substantiate those remarks without editing my words together out of context.
RN: Well thank you for the challenge. Um, the Libertarian Party to which you are –
MOD: Congressman, can we give Mr. Sandman a turn first please?
RN: Okay, yeah.
RS: Well, one of the things is that this is, when you talk about affordable healthcare, we need to make it affordable. We need to make it affordable. That bill needs to be taken up, and we don’t have to start from the bottom up again, but we need to pull the best parts out of there and make it affordable. If you’re a single mother with two children or three children, you cannot afford what is being offered out there now. Especially if you have a low-paying job, a minimum wage job, it needs to be what it says: affordable for everyone.
MOD: Very good, thank you Roger.
MOD: Farmers and agribusiness frequently complain that North Dakota oil shipping is tying up the railroads, impacting delivery of crops to market. Discussion of that issue often leads to the question of pipelines. What is your position on safe transport of oil, the backlog of the commodities to market, and ultimately where do you stand on expansion of pipelines? Mr. Mills.
SM: Well, ah certainly I support expansion of pipelines. Ah, Representative Nolan said that he supported the Keystone Pipeline, then he got to Washington and voted against a bill that would’ve made it that much more closer to that project going forward. He said that he was for the Enbridge Sandpiper Pipeline, and then he said, ‘Well just not on this route.” Well, if we change the route, it, the Enbridge Sandpiper Pipeline – what happens is, you delay it by four to five years and it costs an additional five hundred million dollars, effectively killing the project.
When you take a look at the twenty-five million dollars’ worth of tax revenue that would come in to our part of Minnesota, that’s four million dollars a year alone for Aitkin County, which sorely needs the tax revenue. And I’m endorsed by the Farm Bureau – and when I talk to those guys, y’know they have trouble getting their products to market. Uh and y’know because the rail cars are loaded with crude coming off of the Bakken. So, you know what, we need to go forward with the Enbridge pipeline,
(off camera cough)
SM: they can do it safely, we need to go forward with the Keystone Pipeline. Our economy depends on it. You cannot be for jobs and against the activities that create jobs.
MOD: Thank you. Mr. Sandman, your opinion position on shipping oil and pipelines.
RS: That’s not a very hard decision for me because where they’re proposing to put that pipeline at, runs underneath a lot of water underneath a lot of wetlands. And if you watch the news, there’s been all kinds of toxic spills up there. Is the science safe enough? I don’t know. I don’t think so.
I know the President just the other day or someone, I may be wrong, talked about um getting new tankers. Why not split that? Some for grain, some for farm products, some for the oil. But definitely, re-evaluate those routes that you’re talking about. I know we need oil, but at what cost? How is it benefiting us?
Mr. Mills talks about some tax revenue coming through. Will that outweigh the spill if we have to clean it up? There’s some real issues. Some real thought to our environment that we need to think about and start doin’ about. I’m proactive rather than reactive. We need to sit down at the table with the people involved and bring all these issues and concerns of the people. Before we make a final decision on it. But where I stand right now? No. No on that pipeline. It’s just like hydraulics. You try pushing more oil through it, eventually it’s gonna pop somewhere. We need to look at that. Thank you.
MOD: Thank you. Congressman.
RN: Ah (clears throat), first of all, I’ve taken the time to study the consequences of rail versus highway versus pipelines. And to be sure, there are problems associated with each and every one of them. And none of them are perfect. Ah, but ah with regard to Sandpiper, and with regard to Keystone, um y’know I I do in fact support both of them. But Mr. Sandman’s made a couple of good points here. And I would like to add to that. First of all, ah there’s probably forty thousand miles of pipelines running through Minnesota right now. Every road’s got a pipeline running down it. And they’re they’re everywhere. I am convinced in my mind that pipelines have to be a part of the mix. Ah, they do in fact have a lower carbon footprint. Ah they do ah have are less prone to danger and to accident. And if we use American steel in those pipelines, as I have proposed in my legislation, they will be even safer.
But when you talk about Keystone, ah the Tea Party Republicans brought a bill before the House of Representatives that exempted Keystone, a foreign corporation, from complying with the EPA. From having to get Army Corps Engineer permits. For ah ah ah for installation and for maintenance. For having to post financial assurances when those accidents inevitably occur. Ah (to SM) would you have voted for a bill like that? No, I am for Keystone. And I am for Sandpiper. But I want it to be done right. We’ve proven we have the technology and the know-how to do these things and to do it right if we have the political will. But we can’t let foreign corporations come in here willy-nilly and have their way with us. And the same could be said of Sandpiper. Mr. ah ah Sandman has pointed out that some of that is going through some very fragile soils and waters. And, ah we need Sandpiper. But we can alter the route a little bit, to make sure we protect our precious waters. And that’s what I’m for. I’m for pipelines, but I’m for doin it the right way.
MOD: Thank you Congressman. Mr. Mills, a rebuttal if you –
SM: Well, I keep getting accused of being a Tea Partier, and I’m not sure if that’s entirely accurate, but ah nonetheless y’know the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers has been weaponized against such projects as Keystone. And, you know what, after y’know years and years of trying to get it done and if these agencies aren’t looking how it can be done, or trying to come up with every reason how it can be stopped, you know what, it’s time to get the peoples ah ah to take control of their government again from the bureaucracies and the various agencies so we can get projects like Keystone going. So we can improve our balance of trade, our balance of payments. So we can become energy independent and then become a net exporter of energy.
So ah whether it’s Keystone whether it’s PolyMet, enough is enough. We have to get on with it. This is jobs, it’s our economy, this is the worst economic recovery in U.S. history. And we have various government agencies and bureaucracies for no good reason, all the hoops have been jumped through, the i’s have been dotted, the t’s have been crossed, let’s get on with it, let’s re-ignite our economy.
MOD: Mr. Sandman, do you care to respond?
RS: Not at this time. I mean, it it it doesn’t make sense to me why endanger our wetlands for what ah it would bring to us does not offset. I always look of – well, Mr. Mills made the statement of Camp Doctrine, leaving it better. I don’t see that happening when it does break. We don’t have that technology, we don’t have the funding for it. I can’t see them stepping forward and doing that. I really don’t. Y’know, we really need to take a look at this. This is dangerous. This is dangerous. For the small-term benefit. For the long-term effects that will happen. It’s not will it happen, but when it happens.
MOD: Thank you. Congressman, do you have any thoughts on that?
RN: Well, not to be repetitious, but y’know like I said, I grew up in a time when the lakes and rivers were so polluted they were catchin on fire. The Mississippi River, where we lived, why you’d go down there in the spring and there were toilet paper and condoms and turds hangin on every branch and that was the good stuff. (off-camera and audience laughter) Y’know that wasn’t the that wasn’t the toxic stuff.
So (clears throat) and you had to haul drinking water into Duluth and acid rain was destroying our forests and our lakes. And everyone was “Well, you gotta have jobs or environment. You can’t have both.” Well guess what. We went to work, we proved we have the brains, we have the technology to do both. And to do both we must. Our waters are precious, our jobs are precious, our mining, our manufacturing is precious, rebuilding this middle class is precious.
And with regard to the economics of that, you don’t rebuild the middle class by givin more tax cuts to the super-rich and billionaires and and fighting against a minimum wage for people that have to work two and three jobs just to make a living. That’s not rebuilding the middle class. That’s not restoring the balance. And that’s not restoring the American Dream.
MOD: Thank you. Thank you Congressman for the soundbite.
MOD: Where do you stand on copper nickel mining? Can it be done safely? Do you have any confidence in that at all? And ah ah ah Mr. Sandman, this is your big issue, we’ll start with you Sir.
RS: No, it cannot be done safely. Not at this time, and even though we do not have the science for that. So I oppose that wholeheartedly because I know what it can do. And what it will do. Just about a month ago, a mine up there in British Columbia broke and dumped five billion gallons of toxic waste into the river. Now it’s the same technology that the mining is proposing to make a containment field for that polluted water. But where they’re looking at puttin it is already in a mine that is already leaking into the watershed.
So I don’t support that at all. But what I do support is ah the Northern Lights passenger train. I think my opponents will agree, we need to get big money out of Congress. We need to stop ah giving subsidies to the corporations. We need to have the corporations start paying their darn taxes! Then we can redirect some of that funding into northern Minnesota. So that we can go on with other projects that are less environmental ah deadly and we talk about two to three hundred jobs. Northern Lights, they were talking about the other day, thirteen thousand eight hundred jobs for the Eighth District. That’s something to look at. They may be temporarily, but three four years down the road, maybe something else will happen. We don’t need that mine up there. So.
MOD: Thank you very very much. Representative Nolan, on precious metals mining, Sir.
RN: Well, ah first of all I I grew up on the Iron Range, the Cuyuna Range. Mining is a huge part of what we do and who we are. Our economy that’s been set up here is based on timber, taconite, tourism. Nobody enjoys the Great Outdoors more than we do up here. Our water, our forests, our lakes. We treasure them; that’s why we live here.
But I reject the argument that, because something has never been done before safely, that it can’t be done. There was never an internal combustion engine. There was never a catalytic converter or there was never a scrubber on a coal-fired power plant to scrub the sulfur out of them. We didn’t have the scrubbers to take all the toxic waste out of our lakes and our rivers and our streams. I submit, I submit that we now have the technology. We now have the brainpower. All we have to have is the resolve and the will to do it right.
And ah y’know on your right here, my opponent suggests we should do away with all these EPA regulations and onerous rules. Rules and regulations, which by the way, have cleaned up our air. And our water. And in little over one generation, increased life expectancy in America from about forty-seven to about ninety. Maybe one of the greatest achievements in the history of humanity. No, I submit that we must be compliant with good, sound environmental rules and regulations. And we have the technology to move ahead with mining, ferrous and non-ferrous mining. These are minerals that are badly needed. Ah it’s a huge part of our jobs, our economy, our culture. And we need to protect our environment just as well. Because that too is a critically essential part of our economy and our culture.
MOD: Thank you very much. Mr. Mills, it sounds like there might be some common ground here?
SM: Ah, well uh not really. (Audience laughs) Y’know what, um, I’m for it. Ah, y’know what, PolyMet, it’s amazingly well thought out. The science, the engineering is there. After nine years, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be going forward with it. Obviously, Mr. Sandman is against it. And we’re not quite sure where Representative Nolan is. In the last election cycle, he blasted Jeff Anderson and Representative Cravaack for their support of the Strategic Minerals Act. And then went and voted for it. Ah Nathan Ness in the Duluth News Tribune had a scathing guest editorial which outlined Rick Nolan’s. Representative Nolan’s flip-flops. Also, most recently, in September in the Duluth News Tribune, they were talking about how he is hedging his support of PolyMet. And the Daily Kos did a scathing editorial complete with a video outlining Represen- Representative Nolan’s flip-flops.
So, uh, we can he can say he’s for it right now. Ah, but where is he going to be tomorrow? And y’know you can look, all this stuff is online, ah, it’s not really did not / did too / did not / did too. Just go look it up for yourself. Thank you.
MOD: Thank you. One minute, Mr. Sandman if you’d like.
RS: We don’t have the science for cleanup when it happens. Simple as that. I look at what’s happening now without the mine being there. We have the metal mercuries that are in the water, in the fish already. One in ten babies here in northern Minnesota show a higher elevated – elevation of that metal in their blood. Our babies! What will happen when this happens? It’s not if – it’s WHEN. It’s WHEN IT HAPPENS. We, we are the ones who are gonna suffer. Our children are the ones that’s are gonna suffer. Your grandchildren – it won’t affect us right now. But you go down two generations, it will. And if their record is so great, why are all the accidents happening with this type of mining around the world? It is unsafe because we cannot take care of it when it happens. Thank you.
MOD: Thank you. Congressman, one minute please.
RN: Well, ah, I do support PolyMet. I have always supported PolyMet. I have always supported mining. And I have always supported doing it the right way in compliance with good clean air, water, health and safety standards. Now, obviously you (to SM) take issue with the standards and you (to RS) take issue with the mining. My position has been consistent. It has been clear. And you can say that’s being on both sides of the issue. And I would say yeah, you’re darn right it is. I am for mining and I am for doing it the right way.
And with regard to the technology: Minnesota’s been a leader in clean water technology. We make some of the best high-pressure pumps through companies like Wanner Engineering, we make some of the films that go into reverse osmosis, and (to RS) with regard to wild rice, I’ve been pickin wild rice all my life. I picked rice this year.
RN: Yeah, it – the rice where I was wasn’t very good either, Skip.
RN: But we got a few pounds. Ah, but you can take and PolyMet has said, “Give us your standards. You want two hundred and fifty parts – ten parts – zero parts. We’ll buy the pump, we’ll buy the filtration, and we’ll give you whatever standard you feel is important to protect the water and protect the rice. We have the technology. We have the know-how. We just have to have the political will.
MOD: Thank you very much. Mr. Mills.
SM: Ah, my rebuttal is simple. If anybody who wants to know the truth about how Rick Nolan’s been on each side of the issue, and trying to walk the tightrope and hedge, just go to Google. Just Google it, the information’s out there. The debate’s over.
MOD: Thank you gentlemen.
MOD: Thank you gentlemen. We’ve touched on it in some of your comments, but let’s explore it a little further: the Affordable Care Act. It’s an important issue that keeps coming up, it has withstood dozens of challenges in Congress,it’s withstood scrutiny by the Supreme Court, and it currently is the law of the land. Is it a settled issue? Or in your opinion, where do we go from here? Congressman Nolan.
RN: Well, ah there’s never a final score in politics. So I suspect it’s not a settled issue. But I do like the good things that it has done. Ah, I have a, in fact you probably some of our same friends here, one with Parkinson’s disease, another young couple with a child with a brain tumor, who are thrilled with the Affordable Care Act. Because they were protected from bankruptcy and they were able to get affordable insurance to provide for their family. Ah those are just a couple of things that the Affordable Care Act has done that I think are most important.
Now, is it the final thing? No. I have introduced a number of amendments to make some changes to it, to make it better. And yes, I do support single-payer, which is exactly what Medicare is. Ah y’know they administer the medi – the Medicare program in this country for about three or four percent. The private sector insurance programs administer for about twenty-seven percent. And that’s why, y’know, practically a third of all the healthcare dollars that we spend go into administrative costs and profits for big insurance companies.
We need to find a way to get universal healthcare that’s affordable. For everyone in America. There’s still forty million people that don’t have insurance. In America. This problem is not fixed yet. This thing is not over yet. There’s still a great deal more that we need to do to make sure of a number of things. One is, make sure everybody pays. Y’know, that’s kind of a conservative notion, but I embrace that. Make sure that everybody’s payin the same rate, because that that that’s the fair way to do it. And make sure that everybody’s got the fundamental basic coverage. That’s what Medicare attempts to do, does a pretty darn good job, and that’s what I propose for the American public. Other nations in this world of ours do it. And guess what? They provide healthcare for lower cost than what we do, and they get better results in terms of life expectancy, infant mortality and all the rest. We can do better, and I’m committed to it. Thank you.
MOD: Thank you. Mr. Mills, the Affordable Care Act.
SM: Well, ah first of all what cannot continue will not continue. And as of what we’ve seen from the Affordable Care Act so far, is that costs have gone up and access has gone down. Ah we have people that are paying higher premiums, higher co-pays, higher deductibles, they’re getting less for it. Remember the promises of If you like your plan, you can keep your plan, If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor, and everybody’s gonna save twenty-five hundred bucks? Well, that’s a lie. Because it’s a bad plan. And it will not work.
I am for healthcare reform. Healthcare reform that actually brings down costs and increase access. And I’m also for the goals of the Affordable Care Act. Which is making sure people don’t have to worry about pre-existing conditions, lifetime maximums, or if they have a catastrophic health condition that they don’t have to worry about where the care is coming from. However, we have to decide who we are as a people. Who we are as a society. Are we a society of social safety nets and legal protections? Or are we a welfare state? With a government big enough to give us everything, but also big enough to take it away. So we need to strengthen social safety nets. Social safety nets such as MCHA, Minnesota Comprehensive Health Association, which due to Obamacare, is going to be closing at the end of this year.
So, we could have looked at that high-risk pool. Was it perfect? No. But could we have made it better? Yes. We could have worked on our social safety nets and legal protections as HIPAA, and then let the free market bring the medical economy, the inflation rate of the medical economy, in line with inflation rate with the rest of the economy. Because. We know the free market works. And we know that socialism does not work. So buying and selling insurance across state lines, tort reform, price transparency in the medical economy, and also more utilization of health savings accounts to put the power in the hands of the patient and the consumer. So it shouldn’t be between the patient, the government, the insurance company and the doctor. It should be between the patient and the doctor. We have to get back to what we stand as Americans.
MOD: Thank you. Mr. Sandman, your thoughts on the Affordable Care Act?
RS: And that’s just it. Affordable. Everybody does need insurance, single payer. But the program that is out there right now does not make it affordable to anyone who is single, maybe living on welfare, maybe having a minimum wage job, workin at McDonald’s. It’s not affordable. I don’t say we scrap the whole plan but we definitely take it out of the table and we fix the thing. If other countries in the world can do this, why not us?
We are driven so much by profit and greed by the corporations, insurance companies, they forget about their people. And that’s us. So it needs to be looked at, analyzed, scrutinized, and make it affordable, darn it. Affordable. Thank you.
MOD: Thank you. Congressman, a rebuttal if you will?
RN: Well, y’know ah Mr. Mills now is saying that he supports many of the things that are in the Affordable Care Act, but somehow you want to repeal it. Talk about doublespeak ah it’s startin to y’know smell like the barn on a warm Sunday afternoon here.
Ah ah the fact is y’know you keep talking about free market, you keep talking about affordable, why do you think we had to abandon the free market and establish Medicare? ‘Cause people couldn’t afford it. That’s why. And why do you think we need some changes now? Well, first of all we gotta rebuild the middle class. They can’t afford anything. With the minimum wages, and you oppose an increase in their minimum wages? And you find it personally offensive that the super-rich millionaires and billionaires should have to pay more taxes? Y’know I quite frankly find it a little personally offensive that you would want to deny workin men and women in this country a living wage. Ah because then they might be able to afford some healthcare regardless of whether it was in the private sector or the public sector.
But let’s not throw these slogans around about socialism and and government control and takin over. We’re looking for some common-sense solutions here. To get affordable healthcare to everybody in America. It’s a fundamental right where I come from, and we need to rebuild this middle class so people have some income to afford a lot of things. Like a home. And to afford to feed their children without having to work two or three jobs. That’s what this contest is all about.
MOD: Thank you.
RN: That’s what this choice is all about. It’s a question of who you’re for.
MOD: Thank you Congressman. Mr. Mills, I suspect you have a response.
SM: Yeah, how much time? He covered a lot of ground there. (Off camera laughter). First of all ah y’know I’ve always been, he says that I’ve, it’s smelling like the barn, I believe. How I talk about how I’d handle healthcare reform, I’ve always been consistent, and again ah y’know if that’s that’s your accusation, substantiate it without editing my words together out of context.
As far as the minimum wage is concerned, those jobs are steppingstone jobs. They’re designed for sixteen and seventeen-year-olds to get their first job, to get the skills the experience they need to get the next paying job that they have. The fact that there aren’t jobs after those is a stunning indictment of the failure of the Democrats that have been in control of this economy for the last six years. We we should be removing those steppingstones, we should be re-igniting our economy because y’know in the Bakken oil fields, nobody’s talking about minimum wage. They’re talking about jobs and economic prosperity and things are happening.
And the other thing too is that y’know Representative Nolan talked about common-sense solutions. I hope that single payer government-run healthcare is NOT a common-sense solution to what we need to do with our healthcare economy.
MOD: Thank you Mr. Mills. Mr. Sandman, would you care to respond?
RS: (Sighs) Well once again, we gotta have it affordable. I talked with some people here about three four weeks ago and just to make a living, this young man had to work three part-time jobs. That is not acceptable in a country like ours. He could not afford to have the insurance. So it needs to really be looked at, analyzed, taken apart. And make it affordable for everyone. No one here in this great state or in the United States should have to work three jobs at minimum wage and still suffer. No one. This is supposed to be the land of opportunity. I don’t see no opportunity there. At all. Thank you.
MOD: Thank you very much.
MOD: Well, we couldn’t possibly have this forum without talking about guns. Gentlemen, I watch your TV ads, it’s like watching The Hunting Channel (candidates laugh) sometimes. So, so so let’s talk about guns. Both in the context of the tragedies of mass shootings, but also in the context of protecting and respecting our Second Amendment rights. And Mr. Mills, we’ll begin with you.
SM: Oh. Thank you. Ah, first of all ah we need to enforce the laws that we currently have rather than making up new ones. It doesn’t make any sense when the laws we have right now go unenforced. But also, I’m somebody who will stand up for your Second Amendment rights. Representative Nolan has earned an F rating from the NRA. That’s a failing grade from the National Rifle Association. And again, if anybody wants to debate that, they can go to nolanrecord.com and see how he earned that failing grade, or go to the National Rifle Association’s web site themselves. It will settle the debate pretty quick.
However, ah he also voted for a national gun registry, the McClory Amendment. Ah he wanted to ban smaller framed handguns back in the seventies. And then he gets back to Washington DC and then he goes on the Sunday morning talk show circuit and starts talking about banning semiautomatic rifles, the ones that look scary to him, and to have the government tell us how many bullets we can have in our gun. You know what, Representative Nolan has more than earned his failing grade. And in Washington DC, I will stand up for your Second Amendment rights. Thank you.
MOD: Thank you. Mr. Sandman.
RS: Well, I totally support the Second Amendment as a veteran. I’ve been trained to use guns. But there needs to be some tweaking with the registration, the background checks. To keep the psychopaths and the crazies, as I would call them, from getting their hands on that. So we need to dig deeper more into the background checks. And not allow the school shootings to happen. Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. So that system is failing. So we need to look at that process of registration and background checks for anybody. Any type of gun. Buying that. And that’s a start. But I do support your right to bear arms. Everybody’s right to bear arms. But we need to do more background checks. Thank you.
MOD: Thank you. Congressman.
RN: Ah, Stewart when I said on CBS Face the Nation was is that I don’t need an assault rifle to shoot a duck. And I don’t. Perhaps you do. (audience murmurs) Ah, y’know, maybe you should spend more time at your your shooting range.
Ah but ah the the fact is ah right now you can only have three shells in your gun when you’re shootin ducks. The fact is, there’ve been numerous safety measures that have been passed over the years that have not in any way abridged the right, of our right, to bear arms. That’s just the hard cold fact of life. You kids can’t go to school with a machine gun and a grenade launcher! That was outlawed a long time ago. But that doesn’t take away our right to bear arms. The right to bear arms, as Skip pointed out, is fundamental. Ah, many of us have taken the oath ah to safeguard and protect that right.
And with regard to the NRA, I’m gonna repeat it again. It’s been made clear that the NRA is made up primarily of Washington lobbyists in thousand-dollar suits lobbying for gun manufacturers and the people who sell guns. The NRA guys that I hunt and fish and hang out with, I’ve seen surveys that show that three out of four of them support background checks. (To SM) Um, do you really want the right to sell guns and arms to people that are convicted violent criminals and and terrorists and and people who have been found with serious mental illness? Do you want the right to sell guns to those people? What do you have against background checks?
Gun safety is one thing. Protecting our Second Amendment rights is another. And I support our Second Amendment rights. I love to hunt, I love to fish, I love to sport shoot. And my wife quite frankly, we live in a rather remote location, and glad to have some guns around for personal protection.
MOD: Thank you. I’d like to remind a few members of our audience please control themselves. Mr. Mills and Mr. Sandman and Congressman, I’ll offer you one minute rebuttals. And maybe we can touch on reasonable gun control, which we keep hearing about. Mr. Mills.
SM: Well ah first of all I think it’s way over the line to accuse me of wanting to sell guns to criminals and terrorists. We have the NICS background check right now and again we should follow the laws we have rather than create new ones. And I believe the exact quote that you used was “I don’t need an assault rifle to shoot a duck and I think they should be banned.” All semiautomatic rifles, that’s what we’re talking about, work exactly the same way, regardless of how they look.
And also, you know what, I don’t want the government to tell me I can only have three bullets in my gun. So if you want to find out how Rick Nolan earned his failing grade from the National Rifle Association, you can go to the NRA’s web site or to nolanrecord.com. Thank you.
MOD: Thank you. Mr. Sandman, do you have anything you’d like to add, Sir?
RS: Just want to reiterate is that we need the background checks. Everybody in this great country of ours has the right to bear arms. But we need to do something to keep the crazies and the psychopaths, medically ill from getting their hands on assault weapons and walking into a school because they had a bad day. We need to do better background checks. Thank you.
MOD: Thank you gentlemen. That’s
MOD 2: The Congressman has one more minute.
MOD: Oh, excuse me. Congressman.
RN: Well, I just want to agree with Mr. Sandman here. And Stewart, you know that ah, they can walk across the street, the people that Mr. Sandman is talking about, that we don’t want to have guns, they can walk across the street from their store and go to a gun show and buy all of those guns. And as Mr. Sandman said, and I agree, something needs to be done about that. And I’m sorry that you oppose that, but many of us feel that background checks are important to keep guns out of the hands of murderers and traitors and people who are violently and criminally insane and threatening violence on other people. There’s no reasonable civil rationale for not putting together a complete system of background checks to keep guns out of the hands of people with those histories and those kind of inclinations.
MOD: Gentlemen, let’s turn our attention overseas for a moment. We are confronting a growing terrorist threat in ISIS. The United States has led a coalition in airstrikes, but experts say strikes alone won’t win the battle. The Administration says we will not commit ground troops. How do you propose we deal with this issue of a growing terrorist threat? Mr. Sandman we’ll start with you.
RS: The first statement I’d like to make: America should not be the world’s policeman. Our coalition forces need to take step up and put their troops on the ground. I’ve been to war, I’ve seen war. And I’ve seen the damage that it has done to our young men and women. Both from the past and from the future.
I’ve served two tours in Vietnam. So I know what the enemy is like. How they hide. But to risk our young men and women, I don’t believe the United States needs to send our ground troops in. A limited air assault, what they’re doin right now, I agree with that. But we need to have Saudi Arabia step up. They have the biggest air force in that region. Let them step up and start putting their troops on grounds. Let their troops face the danger.
I’m sick and tired of the United States being called in to be the world’s policeman. We need to step back, we need to bring our boys and girls home, and let them fight it out over there. Because they have the resources, they have the funding from the United States to do that. And by God, they should step up. And save our young men and women. Not put their lives in danger. (coughs) So. You guys know where I stand on that. So thank you.
MOD: Thank you. Congressman.
RN: Well ah (clears throat) I’ve lived in the Middle East, studied the language, studied the culture, done business throughout that region, got a pretty good feel for the people over there. And a couple things. One, it’s very complex. Things are never quite as they appear. But I’ll tell you what some of the facts are. Ah, we have spent trillions of dollars, precious blood in this conflict, and either directly or indirectly we have supplied arms and munitions to just about every single element in that fight over there. We started giving arms to the Mujahideen. They morphed into al-Qaeda. They’re the people who attacked the World Trade Center. We supported Saddam Hussein. We know he used chemical weapons because we gave ‘em to him. Ah then we decided to overthrow him. And we decided to support the Shiites. And Maliki, Mother would have called him Malarkey.
Ah, we we then after they persecuted the Catholics and the Christians and the Jews, shut down the churches and the synagogues, and told them get out of there or they would kill them, as well as the Sunnis. Then we gave money to the Sunnis. They called it the Awakening so that they could protect themselves against the Shiites. Then we sent arms in directly and overtly and through our allies into Syria to the al-Nusra, to the al-Sharam. to the Free Syrian Army, who by the way are actually the Muslim Brotherhood. Then we were gonna attack Sasad and because he was aligned with Hezbollah and with Iran. Now we’re gonna attack the people who are opposing Asad in alliance with Hezbollah and with Iran and the other radical elements.
The point is, the point is no matter how well intentioned we are, we have given money and arms to everybody on every side of this fight. We can ill afford it. These are monies that are needed here in America. For deficit reduction and for rebuilding America. Bring our troops home. Get out of this conflict. It is not our fight, it is theirs. They’ve been in it for thousands of years, and we can ill afford to spend any more money in this conflict.
MOD: Thank you Congressman. Mr. Mills.
SM: Well, ah it starts with our failure to get a Status of Forces agreement with the Iraqi government. We very well could have gotten it. The fact that we prematurely withdrew our troops from Iraq created a vacuum. Into that vacuum was filled up by bad people doing bad things. al-Qaeda is not on the run. They have not been decimated. What we have done is given them a country. We don’t have a choice in this one. They have a direct stated intention of attacking Americans, attacking America and American interests abroad.
And the current track that we’re on is the right track. Because we need to leverage our air power, we need to work with our allies in the region, whether it’s Saudi Arabia, whether it’s Turkey, it looks like they’re getting interested, and it’s right in their interest to make sure we crush the threat of ISIS, or the Kurdish Peshmerga partnering with them – are properly vetted, the operative words is properly vetted moderates, making sure that we’re able to give them the training and the arms, the logistical support and the intelligence they need so this particular coalition can be successful in undoing our mistake of creating the vacuum. Thank you.
MOD: Thank you Mr. Mills. Mr. Sandman, would you care to respond?
RS: Well, I agree here with Mr. Nolan. We need to stop selling arms to all those people over there. We need to bring our people home. They’ve been fightin for how many thousands of years. And I don’t believe we’re doin ‘em any favors by supplying arms to them. We need our boys and young women home. We need to stay stay out and quit trying to be the world’s policeman. We need to take care of what’s happening here in the United States.
MOD: Thank you. Congressman.
RN: Ah yeah, just I want to reiterate that we have no friends in this conflict. Inevitably it’s the arms that we send that are used against us and ah ah even if you think it’s a good idea, we can ill afford it. It’s bankrupting this country, it’s bankrupting our nation.
Those are monies we not only need to rebuild America, those are monies that we need to protect and take care of the veterans when they come home. We have a sacred obligation to take care of veterans who have served and protected us, to serve and protect them when they come home. And I’ve been committed to that, and this is why we have to put an end to our involvement in this conflict. All it does is make us a target and it prolongs the conflict, it exacerbates the violence, and it’s a conflict that only the people in the Middle East can resolve among themselves.
Everyone has said, that if we’re gonna resolve it we have to put boots on the ground, we have to be there for another twenty-five thirty forty years, well America will not be around in another twenty-five thirty years if we keep spending these billions and billions of dollars in nation-building abroad at a time when America’s bridges are falling down, our veterans are not being taken care of, and we need to use those monies and those energies for deficit reduction and rebuilding America.
MOD: Thank you. Mr. Mills.
SM: Well, there’s one thing in there that I agree with. And that’s we have to take care of our veterans. We haven’t done a good job with it in the past. Ah but we have to do a better job. Ah y’know everybody gave some, some gave all. Uh and it’s something that we just as a country have to make that a priority, that if we’re gonna be sending men and women abroad to fight our wars, we have to take care of ‘em when they come home.
Ah but, we don’t have a choice in this. We can’t bury our heads in the sand while there are people being beheaded, Americans being beheaded, in the sands of the Middle East. Thank you.
MOD: Thank you very much.
MOD: Kinda hit on this issue of taxation. So let’s talk a little bit about the taxation. The one side is “tax the rich, rebuild the middle class.” Ah, other side, charges that y’know you’re you’re offering tax breaks to the wealthy, tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs to overseas. Honestly, what approach when it comes to taxation best benefits everyday Minnesotans, and which approach more quickly fuels economic upswing? Representative Nolan, can we start with you please?
RN: Yeah. (Clears throat), first of all, ahm, if it’s not known it should be known, that I spent the last thirty-two years of my life in business. Ah, I built my own business. Ah, a sawmill and a palette factory business, I bought logs from the loggers throughout this district, I delivered palettes to the manufacturers in this district. I know what it’s like to build a business from the bottom up and and create jobs. I know what it’s like to have to meet a payroll. I know what it’s like to have to finance a business. I know what it’s like to have to comply with a wide range and a myrid of government rules and regulations. And would I like not to have to be obligated to do any of that? Well yes, of course. Ah, but it’s necessary.
I don’t mind telling you in the sawmill business, before OSHA, there was nobody who could count to ten on their fingers because they’d lost too many in the saws. In the Brainerd area, I remember when kids were twenty-five and thirty years old and their life was over for want of a little ventilation because their lungs were full of fiberglass. And now, with OSHA, why ah, guess what. They’re still makin fiberglass boats, and and kids are are able to retire.
So when it comes to taxes, when it comes to taxes, I’m fully supportive of things like investment tax credits for things like investing in new equipment and new machinery. I’m fully supportive of government programs to facilitate innovation and new business and starts and entrepreneurship and new business activities. The Small Business Administration for example, ah something we were able to take advantage of in in creating our business, which by the way my children own that business today, and they’re doing very nicely with it. With sawmills in Emily, Minnesota and Remer, Minnesota and a palette factory and supplying palette parts and and they’re they’re doing quite well.
But if we want to rebuild this middle class, we gotta get away from this trickle down theory. Give more money to the super-rich and the billionaires. We need to rebuild it from the bottom up. And that’s why I disagree so vehemently with you on the need to provide more tax cuts for the super-rich, and your opposition to increasing the minimum wage. Beyond that we need tax incentives to stop sending manufacturing overseas and headquarters overseas to escape taxation. Ah, it’s time that the rich and the powerful, that have benefited so much from the greatness of this country, step up and start paying their fair share in the same way that working men and women in this country are paying more than their fair share.
MOD: Thank you Congressman. In In fairness we’ll give Mr. Mills and Mr. Sam a minute and a half here. Ah, two and a half, excuse me. Mr. Mills.
SM: Oh. Thank you. Ah, first of all, uh, our tax code is way too complicated. The IRS is way too powerful, and they’ve been weaponized against the American people. We need a flatter, fairer tax code that benefits the middle class. We’re talking about one deduction, automatic, above the poverty line. And then we’re talking one or two ah lower rates and then deductions, starting for charitable giving, mortgage interest, and also expenses for education. Not limited to those, but it has to be fairer, flatter, it has to be budget neutral, and it has to be so simple, you could fill it out on the back of a postcard. And send it in. ‘Cause we need a smaller IRS. And a less complicated tax code.
But we have to understand the economic engine of our part of Minnesota. Over eighty percent of all employers are small and medium-sized businesses that are taxed at the personal individual level. There’s subchapter S, there are LLCs, there are sole proprietorships, there are partnerships. They pay taxes as individuals. And when they’re paying a higher tax rate, thirty-nine point six percent, and corporate America, Wall Street, is paying thirty-five percent, and they have armies of accountants and lawyers and CPAs – you know what? That’s the reason why we have disproportionally – one of the reasons – why we have disproportionally high unemployment in our part of Minnesota.
Y’know, the numbers – yeah, y’know, for the state look good, but when we start picking apart what’s happening in the Eighth District, the Iron Range has sixty-four percent higher unemployment than the rest of the state. Brainerd and Grand Rapids, in the last several months, have topped out above ten percent unemployment. Uh, in Bemidji, yes, the outskirts of Bemidji are part of this District, they have topped out at above, in the last several months, ten percent.
But that’s not the real real numbers there. We had a much higher rate in ah of employment, participation in employment market, about six years ago. Thousands, thousands of our friends and neighbors have given up looking for work altogether, and we have underemployment. We have people working two or three or four part-time jobs, and we’ve talked about that, because they can’t find a good paying, or higher paying job that fits their skill levels. And that’s indicative of an economy that is not working, that is sputtering in fits and starts. And if we want to make sure our part of Minnesota has a great economy, we have to look at re-igniting Main Street business from again, Main Street up, not from Washington D.C. or Wall Street on down. And we need to look at getting projects like Sandpiper going. And making sure PolyMet is going. We know how to do it. Uh, we just have to go and do it.
MOD: Thank you Mr. Mills. Mr. Sandman, your philosophical approach to taxation.
RS: Well, I agree with Mr. Mills here, the IRS is a big monster out there lurking in the dark waiting to strike. But where I’d start with that, I would start making sure that we get the money out of the corporations. Stop that subsidies. I could be wrong, but at last I’d heard, it was like five hundred billion dollars a year. Make the corporations start paying their taxes. Y’know, four to five billion dollars there.
I believe in a strong tax base, and but it doesn’t need to come from the backs of the middle class. It doesn’t need to come that way. We need to start looking at the top. You see the trickle down effect? It doesn’t trickle down at all. It only goes so far. So when you talk about taxes, yeah we need a flat tax break um that is fair. For everyone. Everyone. Not just the ones at the top. Then we can have some money that we can do some things here in Minnesota. We can redirect that money. If I’m elected, I’ll do the best I can to redirect that money. We need to get the money out of government. We need to put it in the pockets of the people. That’s you, my friends. That’s you. Thank you.
MOD: Thank you. Congressman Nolan, one more minute on taxation.
RN: Well, couple things. Ah, Stewart, a lot of people like to talk about the tax rates of thirty-eight percent and thirty-five percent. Let’s talk about reality. A recent tax study here in Minnesota found that the average person making a million dollars or more is paying an effective rate of thirteen percent. Not, not thirty-five or thirty-eight percent. And the average person making to thirty to fifty thousand dollars a year is paying thirty-one percent. So the one who made a million has only got eight hundred seventy thousand dollars left to get by on for the year? And the person making thirty thousand’s only got twenty thousand left to get by on for the year. Stewart, you’ve made more money with the salary that your family pays you sittin here in an hour and a half than ah the ah minimum wage earner will make in a week!
One of your fellow employees came up to me and said that he did the math and he found out that he’d to work for your company for thirty-three years to make what your family pays you in a year. Ah, the fact is, the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the tax policies are exacerbating and accelerating that, and in no small part responsible for that, and nobody is for penalizing the rich! On the contrary. We just want the rich and the powerful to pay their fair share. And we reject this trickle down theory of economics. We support increasing minimum wages and living wages and rebuilding the middle class, ‘cause that’s how you rebuild the promise of America.
MOD: Mr. Mills, I assume you want to respond to that.
SM: Well yes. At the very beginning, Representative Nolan was making a great case for tax reform. But then he started talking about our family’s business. And yes, we have been successful. We do make a profit. That’s the purpose of business. And, y’know whether it is through profit or whether it is through your paycheck, anybody who is in business knows that that’s an opportunity to re-invest back in your business to sustain the jobs you currently have and to create new ones. And that’s our business model. That is Fleet Farm’s business model. We work hard, sweat of our brow, sometimes we have calluses on our hands, they may get a little bit bloody at times. But then at the end of the day, we hope to make a profit. And to pay ourselves good wages. But that’s an opportunity to re-invest back in our business. And that is our entire business model.
Again, we’re not publically traded. There’s no venture capital money, there’s no private equity money. What we’ve been able to do is ah make sure we’re able to grow our business off of our own profits and off of our own wages and re-investing those back in our business, and we make no apologies for it.
MOD: Mr. Sandman, any final thoughts on taxation?
RS: We need to do the right thing. We need to do the right thing for the happiness and survival of the middle class. We need to get that money out of those corporations and have ‘em start paying their fair share. Then we can look at funding some of our social programs that are out there. We need to start with the rich and bring it down. We pay enough taxes already. We don’t need to burden ourselves with any more. Just havin’ it be fair. Having it be fair for everyone.
MOD: Thank you gentlemen.
MOD: Let’s talk about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, all designed to provide for a social safety net if you will. But most would agree that that net is fraying with each passing year of inaction by Congress. What would you propose to be done to begin to address the problems that we know are coming? Mr. Mills.
SM: Well, first of all uh actually you set that question up perfectly. A promise made is a promise kept. And we have to keep our promises to our seniors. But also we have to be cognizant of those programs are going to reach insolvency in circa 2034. That’s in about twenty years. And after identifying the problem we have to come together on a bipartisan solution. Because we don’t need to do to Social Security and Medicaid what the Democrat party has done to America with Obamacare. It has to be both houses of Congress, both sides of the aisle. Putting all options on the table to make sure that we are able to make good on those promises to our seniors.
And as far as Medicare is concerned, we have to look at the underlying medical economy. The increase in inflation in the medical economy is killing Medicare. Not only that, we have taken seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars, that’s billion dollars, out of Medicare to pay for Obamacare. And if anybody thinks that’s a a a phony accounting number, or that somehow that went to benefit Medicare, you can talk to the people in the home health care industry. They’ve had about fifty billion dollars taken out of the Medicare home health care and we have seniors that are depending on that. We need to put that seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars back into Medicare because those are real cuts, regardless of what anybody tells you. Thank you.
MOD: Thank you Mr. Mills. Mr. Sandman, your thoughts on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid?
RS: We need to put the money back in. But we also need to change that thought that is in Washington where they consider Social Security an entitlement. We the workers built that fund up. And by God, just because you’re sittin in Washington, that’s our money. That’s our money that belongs to us for when we get older. Medicare is the same way. They sound good, but if they’re an open door for a bank robber, that’s gonna bank rob all of us.
So we need to do the right things. We need to put the money back. Social Security is not an entitlement program. And we need to let all of our Representatives in Washington, the Senate, say “No. Enough is enough.” Thank you.
MOD: Thank you. Congressman Nolan.
RN: (clears throat) yeah, first of all I wanna re-emphasize something Mr. Sandman has just said here. And that is Social Security and Medicare are not entitlements. They are earned benefits that people started paying for the first hour, the first day, the first month that they ever went to work. With the hope and the expectation that they would live long enough someday to enjoy the benefits. And the fact is, that nothing has done more to lift more people out of poverty, maybe in the history of the world, than Social Security. Nothing has done more to extend the lives of our senior citizens than having access for all through Medicare. (to SM) A single-payer system, by the way, Stew.
And ah the fact is, that Social Security’s got a two trillion dollar surplus in it. And and and in the absolute worst case, and that’s based on projections; we don’t know what it will actually be. But it’s good for twenty or thirty years, and experts actuaries say that if we just lifted the cap on the amount that people have to pay their Social Security taxes on, and make millionaires and billionaires pay the same rate that workin men and women pay. Why, we would make ah Social Security secure ad infinitum. And you’re talking about keeping all options on the table? When your own political party that you choose to caucus with has called for the privatization, and turning Social Security over to Wall Street? I will oppose that with all my might and all my strength.
And you’re talking about in the same case with Medicare? Taking and turning that back over to the insurance companies? Where one-third of all our health dollars go into a big insurance company profits and senseless costly administration? No no no no. There are ways that we can reduce healthcare costs and there are ways that we can protect Social Security Medicare without turning Social Security over to Wall Street. And without turning Medicare over to the insurance industry. We they we had that once upon a time. And if you think costs are bad under the Affordable Care Act, you’d better go back and read how vastly accelerating the costs of insurance were under the so-called free market system that you embrace. They were much worse. And we’ve gotta fix it, we’ve gotta improve it, we gotta keep moving forward, we have to protect Social Security and Medicare.
MOD: Thank you. Mr. Mills. Your thoughts?
SM: Ah, well, ah first of all, um yes, there have been some Republicans that have advanced different ideas. But those are not me. And so for Representative Nolan to attempt to put words in my mouth because somebody somewhere in the Republican Party advanced one idea, ah you know what, I can only state what I believe and what I will stand for in Washington. And –
RN: You’re the one, you’re the one who said all options are on the table. They’re not for me. (audience murmurs)
RN (to SM): Sorry.
SM: No, no, that’s that’s quite all right. I – anyways, (to MOD) Can I start over on the time? I (to RN) that – that was rude, but that’s it’s understandable.
SM: Okay. Ah, basically, I don’t want anybody to words in my mouth. Because I want to stand for what I stand for, and what I will stand for you in Washington DC. And I preserve – I believe in preserving and protecting Social Security and Medicare. But we have to be cognizant of the fact that these programs have a date of insolvency. And we can’t just keep kicking the can down the road. Thank you.
MOD: Thank you. Mr. Sandman.
RS: Well, I was kind of enjoying the argument here. (audience laughter) I mean that’s just, wow. You guys are good. (laughs)
We need to – it’s it’s not an entitlement program and people need to realize that in Washington. We need to have that affordable – and all the things we’ve talked about here tonight – come back to the middle class people. If I’m elected into the office, I’ll do everything I can to keep those costs down, bring that money back, and put it back where it belongs. With you, the people. Thank you.
MOD: Thank you. Congressman.
RN: Ah, well I guess I get another minute? What a deal here. (off camera laughter) So, ah, I’ll go back to what I said before. (to SM) You have chosen to propose to go to Washington and caucus with the people that want to privatize Social Security and privatize Medicare. And it’s one thing to say you want to protect that. But you know the devils are in the details. And if your idea of protecting it is keeping all options open, including the option of privatizing both, which is what the people that you propose to caucus with – ah, that should be a little disturbing for people ah who are relying and counting on Social Security and Medicare.
And I would just submit, once again, ah, nothing has done more to lift more people out of poverty than Social Security. And nothing has done more to extend the lives and add more life to the lives of our seniors than Medicare. They’re two wonderfully good programs. And I have no interest whatsoever in privatizing either one of them. And will do whatever whatever it takes to preserve them as they are. They have never failed to meet an obligation. There’s never a year that they haven’t produced a profit. And they have done so much good for our seniors that I will do everything in my power to protect them as they are.
MOD: Thank you Congressman.
MOD: Mr. Mills let’s start with you, your closing comments.
SM: Well, ah, it’s pretty simple. We’ve heard a lot here today and the question is, who is better to represent our ideals and our priorities in Washington DC? Ah, somebody who voted with Obama approximately ninety percent of the time? Somebody who is F rated by the NRA? Somebody, we didn’t touch on it a whole lot, but somebody who voted, actually voted for an energy tax, a carbon tax that would strangle the economy of our part of Minnesota. The number one cost of production, the number expense in mining, is energy. That carbon tax, that energy tax, would strangle our Iron Range.
And the same for timber and the paper industry. A large part of their expenses is energy. That carbon tax, that energy tax would strangle our paper and timber industries. The Port of Duluth ships about forty forty percent of the tonnage that goes through the Port of Duluth is coal. Carbon. Energy. That would strangle our part of Minnesota, causing us to pay more at the pump and causing us to pay more in our home energy bills.
Somebody who supports the Waters of the US Rule? Which would cause the EPA to be able to come in and regulate drain tile ditches and ponds on our families’ farms? Or somebody who thinks that Obamacare is a great first step to government run single payer healthcare?
So hopefully you’ve listened carefully. You’ve listened with open ears, open arms and open hearts. And I look forward to your vote and representing you in Washington DC because I truly believe, based on what we talked about here, is that I best represent the values and the priorities of this District. And I look forward to going to Washington DC to serve you. Thank you.
MOD: Thank you. Mr. Sandman, your final thoughts?
RS: I’m a common person. And I use common sense. If I’m elected, I can walk between both parties. I’m not stuck in the party mode, rather it be Republican or Democrat. I care about you, and doing the right things. Lowering taxes. Student debt. Jobs. Environment. Number one is environment with me.
There’s a lot of talk out there that the corporations and the powers that be don’t care about the environment or the people. They are fed by greed. They don’t care about you. The parties, I believe, don’t care about people. It’s about control and power. I care about you. I care about your grandchildren and their right to life.
When I’m elected, I will make my voice heard. And I’ll do the best that I can for you. For you’re the ones that put me in power. You’re the ones that put me in the office. And your voice will not go unheard. So. Vote for me November fourth. Thank you.
MOD: Thank you. Congressman Nolan.
RN: Ah, (clears throat) well again, I want to thank everybody for this opportunity. Thank my opponents here in this race for a spirited debate. It should be pretty clear by this point ah what the choice is. And ah and who you’re for.
Ah one other little element I’d just like to add to it, is and that is the question of y’know who can, who can get things done in Washington as well. Ah, independent groups rated yours truly in the upper ten percent of people who were able to introduce legislation and effectively get it passed into law. Believe me, as a freshman, in a Tea Party Republican dominated House of Representative, that is no easy task. Time Magazine cited my leadership for keeping us out of the war in the Middle East. I sponsored an amendment on the floor of the House to knock eighty-nine billion dollars out of the Afghan Reconstruction Fund. Why? Because we need that money back home for deficit reduction and rebuilding America. That’s enough money to finance the state of Minnesota for several years and still fund our schools, our roads, our bridges.
I helped write the Farm Bill, helped write the Water Resources Bill, helped sponsor a bill to make it streamline the regulations for manufacturers like Cirrus, creating all kinds of good jobs. I passed legislation to prohibit the Presidents, Republicans and Democrats from raiding our Harbor Trust Fund, Ah I passed legislation protecting, helping protect the Great Lakes and our Mississippi watershed from the various invasive species that destroy our native fish and aquatic life. I secured ah three thousand acres for the Fond du Lac Band of the Chippewa Nation that had been stolen by settlers ah following the Treaty of 1854. My staff and I have worked with government, private agencies, private (unclear) nonprofit public to secure well over three million dollars in grants for roads, for bridges, for airports, for our harbors, for our schools.
Ah the point is, there is a longer list. Mining executives as well as mine workers support my candidacy. Energy executives as well as energy employees support my candidacy. You know where I stand on all these issues. You know who I’m for. I think people just have to ask who they’re for, and the decision who to vote for should be easy.
MOD: Thank you. And we’ll leave it there gentlemen. Thank you all for your participation this morning. We appreciate this opportunity to have a discussion on the issues. Chuck thank you, and our partner at the Duluth News Tribune. Thanks to the Civility Project folks, and of course thanks to the Playhouse for the use of their facilities. Thanks again, enjoy the rest of your day.
(Audience applause, cheers)