Video Replay & Transcript-Open Congressional Seat Debate: Emmer, Perske & Denney Debate In St. Cloud

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Tom Emmer Joe Perske John Denney are congressional candidates in Minnesota's sixth district.

Tom Emmer Joe Perske John Denney are congressional candidates in Minnesota's sixth district.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) has decided to retire from congress after barely winning her last election against DFL candidate Jim Graves. So you might think this race would attract media attention. It isn’t. Graves wasn’t popular so much as Bachmann had grown unpopular. Her failed 2010 presidential bid, where she emphasized her Iowa roots, may have been part of the reason. A bigger reason may be her constant exposure on Fox News as a spokesperson for the Tea Party. Minnesota’s sixth congressional district is conservative, but even it has its limits.

Enter former state Rep. Tom Emmer, who has name recognition thanks to his failed run for governor in 2010. He easily captured the Republican party endorsement and won the August primary. His Democratic challenger is Sartell Mayor Joe Perske. Given Emmer’s name recognition and the conservative bent of this district (it only elected one Democrat to Minnesota’s legislature in 2012), most pundits have written this race off as a GOP victory.

However, Emmer is known to say outrageous things. His comments about waiters making $100,000 a year with tips triggered a popular backlash that probably tipped the scales against him in the close three-way race for governor in 2010. Watch as he debates Perske and Independence Party candidate John Denney in a St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce event.

Following the debate, Perske and Denney spoke with The UpTake’s Bill Sorem. Emmer left immediately after the debate finished. Perske wants to expose more of Emmer’s legislative record in the campaign. Denney, said his advantage is that he can, “Speak the truth,” referring to his debate comments on the influence on and control of major party candidates through large contributions.

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Debate transcript by Susan Maricle

St. Cloud Rotary Debate, 6th District

JD = John Denney, Independence candidate
TE = Tom Emmer, Republican candidate
JP = Joe Perske, Democratic candidate
TB = Teresa Bohnen, moderator

TB: So today we welcome our Independence Party candidate, John Denney, John thanks for being here.

JD: Thanks for having me.

TB: Should we? Yeah, let’s applaud.

JD: Yeah. (audience applauds)

TB: Republican candidate Tom Emmer. Tom, thanks for being here. (audience applauds) And DFL candidate Joe Perske. Joe, thank you. (audience applauds)

The format for this debate forum will be as follows. I will ask questions of our candidates regarding federal issues of greatest concern to our Chamber and Rotary Club members, as well as to central Minnesota’s business community. And candidates will be allowed up to 2 minutes to address each question. At the moderator’s discretion, candidates will be allowed rebuttal time of up to one minute to their opponent, particularly if their names or positions are addressed in responses. And in that way, somebody can’t just say something thinking they’re gonna be the last word.

I encourage each of you to be clear and concise in your answers so we can cover as much ground as possible in your hour. A beeper will sound at the end of your time, indicating you should complete your sentence and stop.

And our timekeeper today is Chamber Vice President Gail Ivers, Gail is right here, front and center, and she’ll be signaling you when you have thirty seconds remaining, and then when your time has expired, and the little beeper will go off too. So you’ll have both the visual and a sound.

So are we ready to get started? Okay.

All right. I will mention too that these these questions are not distributed in advance. Topics are discussed and ah they are pretty tightly held. I did get some questions from within the Rotary Club and Chamber that I have included from individual members. So.

We’ll start with you ah John. St. Cloud is the largest city in the Sixth District, and the eighth largest city in the state of Minnesota. What do you see as St. Cloud’s greatest challenges and opportunities in the next two years, and what’s the first piece of legislation that you’d offer as a freshman congressman?

JD: Well, that that seems like two questions.

TB: It is. (audience laughs)

JD: (laughs) First off, I think, particularly with the St. Cloud area, transportation dollars are gonna be big. That’s gonna be a big factor in ah bringing home those federal transportation dollars. And if you look online, on, you’ll see I have a plan to do just that, ah one of my big planks is bringing money back to Minnesota.

I think that when you look at the ah – we haven’t been able to pass a longterm transportation funding bill. Ah I think we put a little patch on it til May of 2015, we haven’t been able to put that forth. And a lot of that is because of partisanship. Ah there is no real “working across the aisle” in Congress right now, I think we’re seeing that and because of that, we’re not able to get together on a deal so that state and local governments can add a goodly structure to their funding, going forward. ‘Cause they just need predictability in their funding streams. And that’s really what we’re lookin’ for.

So, as the only Independent in the House, I would immediately become a true power broker of the center, and immediately be able to put Minnesotans and St. Cloud first in line for every congressional decision, and very well able to bring those federal dollars home.

TB: Legislation?

JD: Oh, legislation, okay. This is good. So. My big thing. Getting money out of Congress. Ah the first thing that I would propose is a bill that we’re drafting called Phase Two. Phase Two eliminates 501(c)(4) status for political organizations. Because this is how you get funding for political organizations. Funding into political campaigns that is not disclosed, ah we don’t have to disclose who all the people funding these things are, currently the way it’s set up. So by eliminating that, you take care of all of the dark money that’s coming into politics right now. When you see that we don’t know who’s funding these campaigns in a lot of cases. They could be coming from Saudi Arabia. It’s actually could be a national security issue if you look at it in that light.

So, you look on, like I said, you’ll see a perfect a perfectly well laid-out plan, unlike my opponents, who don’t lay out much of a plan online. Ah you’ll see that I have a plan to do just that.

TB: Thank you. Tom Emmer. What do you see, and what legislation would you champion?

TE: Ah the first thing is, St. Cloud. as you noted, is the largest city within the district. I think Blaine is close behind, but St. Cloud is the largest. Eighth largest, I think you pointed out in the state. It’s also important to note that it’s right in the center of the state. It’s right, when it comes to ah commerce, this is the hub, actually of the state. I know the folks down in St. Paul and Minneapolis want to claim it’s them. But quite frankly, everything has to go through St. Cloud, whether it’s coming from Chicago and headed up towards North Dakota and beyond, or coming back – it’s gotta come through St. Cloud.

So first and foremost, the challenges are – we can talk about challenges on business growth. You gotta have pro-growth policies at the federal level and at the state level. That means you gotta have less burdens on those folks that are growing businesses in this area. And it comes back to what John was talking about, the challenges that we see are gonna be transportation challenges. It’s people, product, making sure that we can get things through this part of the state and onto other parts of the country.

And I and I think when you look at it, you lower taxes, you streamline regulations, you let people keep more of their own money so that they can innovate and create new opportunities, which by the way is one of the secrets of St. Cloud. It’s got one of the greatest business communities in the state. And you’ve got to allow it to not only survive, but to thrive and to continue to grow. And then it’s gonna be the transportation infrastructure around it. I believe you focus on roads and bridges and you work from there.

As far as legislation, I love people who believe that they’re going to a body of 535 and “The first bill I’m gonna offer is that everybody here is going to succeed.” That’s not the way it works. Ah if I am your representative in Congress, the first thing I’m gonna do is start building relationships with people that are there, so that I can actually be effective in the office. Those are people on both sides of the aisle. Start to get to know them, let them get to know me. And build that office so that when you call, and you need something done, we can actually be of service to you.

TB: Thank you. And Joe Perske, our challenges and opportunities, and your first legislation.

JP: I’ll tell you what, first of all, I want to thank you for having this forum, to get a chance to contrast myself with the other candidates. Ah also I see family and friends out here and colleagues, and it’s encouraging to see you. Many of you folks know that I’ve already been faced with the challenges that we’ve had here in the area, working as mayor and working on the Area Planning Organization working in the greater St. Cloud development community. Ah we brought our community through one great challenge, up in Sartell, with the explosion and fire at the mill, and looking at what we would do as far as finding locations for those workers, retraining for those workers. Also, what to bring back into that, Edmonton Trailer, coming in there, getting some jobs for us, and now we look at the future of that site for redevelopment.

And we want to make sure that we’re looking at jobs throughout the entire district. Now these communities overlap, and one thing that I’m very pleased to see, is the way we work together as mayors, across the communities, council members, township members. Again, with that APO board that we actually can solve these issues and and and come to a consensus about how we’re going to face these challenges in regards to transportation. And I’ve been a transportation a a advocate for you already in Washington and in St. Paul. You know working on the I-94 corridor, which we need to get up here to St. Cloud. Lookin visionary for North Star Corridor, get North Star Rail up here to St. Cloud.

One item that Mr. Emmer had voted against, and still insists he is opposed to, ah getting the airport to work, St. Cloud Airport, we want that to work, we want that to prosper.

As far as legislation, we want to make sure we’re getting our tax dollars for transportation out of Washington. That’s something we haven’t seen, that good representation. Again, we need to have an advocate that’s gonna go there and wanna get those things to happen here in St. Cloud, happen here in Minnesota like we saw with Jim Oberstar, and I would be like to be that transportation champion for you.

TB: Thank you. Any first legislation you’d like to author?

JP: First legislation?

TB: On transportation.

JP On transportation, let’s get some things moving here. We’ve got some wonderful projects that we’d like to see happening around St. Cloud. West Metro Corridor continued as well.

TB: Okay, thank you. Okay, the second question ahm Tom you’ll start with this, to Joe and then back to to John Denney. Ah what’s your assessment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and its impact on consumers and businesses to date? And what would you do as Congressman to make the act better?

TE: The ah right now, The Affordable Care Act, which most people commonly refer to as Obamacare, it’s not working. And I think anybody who looks at it should understand that when you’ve got the executive pushing out deadlines, I think that there have been 21 extensions by the executive branch – on deadlines including the employer mandate. which was originally 2014 I believe, then it was 2015, now it’s been extended out to 2016.

And why? Because it can’t work. They passed something that they didn’t understand what it was when the passed it. They’re now trying to actually make it work while it exists. They were promulgating rules to fill out the law. And I don’t believe it’s going to work. And the impact so far on consumers and businesses, well it’s been it’s been serious. It’s not what it’s going to be. An they’re talking about in some places, next year for some small employers, anywhere from 35 to 65% increases in premiums. And this is gonna be significant for families and for businesses alike all across this state and this country.

As a Republican, an endorsed Republican by the way, I’ve also been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber, I’ve been endorsed by NFIB, Farm Bureau, and today the Minnesota Fraternal Order of Minnesota Police. Ah as a as a Republican candidate I think it’s up to us to be offering our solutions. That’s allowing people more options to purchase coverage across state lines, it’s allowing small businesses more pooling options, so they can get the same type of coverage that large businesses get, it’s about allowing individuals to expand their health savings account options, it’s about tying the coverage to the individual instead of employer, and on and on. We need to be ready for our with our solutions for families and small businesses when this top-down one-size-fits-all federal solution doesn’t work.

TB: Thank you. Joe Perske, comments on the Affordable Care Act?

JP: We’ve been looking for decades to get a healthcare program in this country that will work for all Americans. And that’s the question is, who do we want healthcare for? Do we want healthcare for all, or some? Now we take a look at the Affordable Care Act and what was it based on the premises? The precedent of that pre-existing conditions would not exclude somebody from healthcare. That your child could stay on your plan until they’re 26. And then the 80/20 rule: at least 80% of that money has to go back to patient care, and not into profits, not into CEO salaries, not into money away from patient care. I think we came to agreement that those are things, those are things we could all live with.

And then we came back with, which companies would allow it to work within those parameters, and then give people options to purchase from those companies? But that didn’t really happen, happened so well. There were problems with this, no questions about this having problems. But it is working for millions of Americans. There are now millions of Americans that do have healthcare. In fact, I was going around (laughs) the entire Sixth District shaking hands, 35 parades, and my wife and I did 35 of those parades with me. The county fairs, the festivals, talking to people, asking them what they felt about the Affordable Care Act.

It’s not all bad. Again, some people have insurance that never had insurance! Now if you repeal this, what’s gonna happen to those folks? Ah again, they’ll have no insurance. And we’ll just go backwards again. We need to put the polarizing politics aside that has been so embedded into so many issues in this country. There are issues we have here and there’s not Democratic or Republican solutions. There are there are answers that are best for people. And we need to come up with the solution that’s best for people.

You can call it Affordable Care Act, you can call it Obamacare, you can call it Romneycare, but let’s find a solution and work together so that we can have healthcare for all Americans, and of affordable means. And if Mr. Emmer has a proposal that’ll work, I welcome that proposal. Because again it’s about working for people and working what’s right. Not playing politics with this good issue that people want and people need.

TB: Thank you. John Denney.

JD: So. Real quickly, back to the previous question, you’ll notice that neither of my opponents mentioned a bill that they’re going to propose when they get there. You know he also reiterated a lot that he’s the Republican-endorsed candidate. Now – I know an R or a D means something to us, culturally. But is that all you really have to carry you for your plans when we get to Washington? I think Minnesota knows better than to send anyone into a job for which they have no plan. I have multiple plans and multiple bills laid out online that you can see, that I plan to implement when I get there.

Now, on on this question, Joe stole my punchline there. It could be Romneycare. Because you do get a lot of the same things from these two parties. The impact on consumers, well particularly for the youth, and when I say youth I mean 40 and under (audience and JD laugh), this is going to be something that largely affects us. Let’s call it what it is, it’s a situation where the younger generation is largely gonna be footing the bill for this.

Now, the individual mandate, it violates my basic conception of liberty, in which it is requiring us to pay for something that we don’t necessarily want. Ah we, I find the the mandate to be coercive over the states, where you have the federal government holding funds over the heads of states saying that “you need to cover your citizens for X amount, and if you do not do that, we are going to withhold these funds.” That’s a problem for me.

Now with that said – well actually, let’s talk also because the question had impact on business. My uncle showed me the numbers for his plastics factory, and what’s about to happen when this thing hits small business. It’s gonna get ugly. And we need to get someone in there who can actually work across the aisle, actually, not work across the aisle ‘cause I stand in the middle of the aisle, as the only Independent. I don’t have to reach across, I can just short-arm it, right here.

Now – I do not advocate a repeal of the ACA, because I think that Americans are, we wanna go forward. Now, I prefer market solutions. But this is law now, and it’s time we work hard on what’s already in place to try to make this work for small businesses before it blows up, because it’s gonna be bad here very soon.

TB: Thank you. (clears throat) Now we’ll go to a happier topic. Joe we’ll start with you on this, and then we’ll come back to to John and then finally Tom will finish. This is on energy.

And the the (laughs) see, everybody is laughing now, the EPA recently announced its plan to reduce carbon emissions from new and existing power plants. And the plan will cost consumers and states like Minnesota the most, because our power companies have already taken major steps and incurred major costs to reduce emissions and support renewable energy more so than other states. And yet the percentage you’ve got to improve is the same. So it’s tougher for people who already are very good. Do you support regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act in this way? And do you have any recommendations regarding how the EPA might be more fair and equitable to individual states?

JP: I I’ll tell you what, I I was displeased when I saw that. Ah they way they ah brought this legislation out. Because I I compare it to two people that are trying to lose weight, and they start out and they they both make the best effort, but one loses 50 pounds and the other loses 10 pounds. Well then you come back with the next parameter, saying “We want you to lose another 20%.” Well the person that had already lost so much weight now is at a disadvantage. And that’s what happened here. Minnesota did some things to actually do the best they could to reduce those carbons, to be more energy efficient. And and to be more productive.

Now when they come in with these percentages, all of a sudden, now we’ve got to take away even more from what we’ve already taken away. That wasn’t fair. Also the I think it was the ability to to generate or draw ah energy from North Dakota, which was not actually meeting the parameters, with which they were leaner and meaner for. They ah carbons in the air. That wasn’t fair either. We have Minnesota companies that did the restrictions, were able to become more energy efficient, cleaner, and they were just penalized for doing that.

Ah do we need to be cleaner? Should we be? Absolutely. We can do better. But we have to take time in which do it. We’re not just gonna turn off the lights and and shut the coal plants down. We’ve gotta have a plan, using coal for a bridge, and have a plan that’s going to eventually get us cleaner, through solar, through wind, ah through other means as well.

TB: Thank you. John.

JD: Now I think the biggest thing we can do, this is gonna sound odd, right, I’m telling ya that free markets can help the environment in this situation. We do a lot of subsidizing of carbon fuels. We do a lot of subsidizing of Big Oil. And this, to me, is a problem if you if you really allow for a free market, you’ll see the renewables and energy forms that are cleaner are gonna rise to the top a lot quicker. If we just stop tampering in the free markets the way we’ve been doing. And the big, the biggest cause of that, obviously is y’know money and Congress. You have lobbyists who come in, they they lobby for these subsidies and they get ‘em. And this is the real elephant in the room of American politics that nobody talks about.

Ah let’s let’s just imagine for a second – or let’s all think about the last time someone lent you twenty bucks. And I’m sure you felt obligated to repay that twenty bucks, in fact you were expected to repay that twenty bucks. Now, if we took that and multiplied it by a thousand, or better yet let’s just imagine someone comes running up to us right now and says “Excuse me Sirs! I see that you’re running for Congress and I wanna see that you get elected! Now, I can’t vote for you, I don’t live in your district, in fact I’m not even a person! I represent a political party or a union or a PAC or a corporation who wants a subsidy. Now, I actually can’t vote at all. But nonetheless, here’s twenty grand and I’ll call you after the election.”

Now, if any of you saw us accept that money, would there be any doubt in your mind that we are obligated to repay that? This is the problem that no one talks about. And no one talks about it because the parties who are in charge right now, they enjoy this system. It’s good for them. So, getting money out of Congress is one of the biggest ways we can open up the energy industry to a true free market, let renewables come to the top, because they will, just for efficiency purposes, that’s what America’s founded on, free markets, and that’s what I believe in.

TB: Thank you. And Tom Emmer.

TE: Ah Teresa the question I thought was would you support a tax on carbon ah emissions –

TB: Regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

TE: Yeah, I I think first, the answer is no. I would not. And ah I wanna go into it a little bit because you also brought the EPA in the picture and the rulemaking authority. And despite what I told you, when you asked us the first question, what legislation that we might put forward if we were in office, ah I still believe that anybody who thinks they can get elected, go to Congress and and suddenly (snaps fingers) start moving legislation, it takes relationships, it takes building ah those relationships.

But I’ll tell ya the one that ah fits this question better than any other. And that is we have a problem in this state. Not just this country, but both in this country and this state. Where we have unelected bureaucracies that are in effect, making the laws that you and I have to live on. The EPA is a classic example with this ah rulemaking authority. And I believe that there should be some changes made. Maybe we do what ah I understand South Dakota does, which it it has a legislative process for proving proposed rules. So that the actual elected officials, the people that we hire to represent us, are making those decisions as opposed to ah the bureaucracies or the agencies of government. I think that needs to happen at a federal level.

As far as energy in general, ah the government has to get out of the way. You want this to happen, we gotta have more free market, we gotta have more opportunities, a strong economy is based on abundant and efficient energy. Inexpensive energy. You can see what’s happening is just the gas prices are going down right now. Ah and it should be clean coal, it should be petroleum, it should be natural gas. Anything and everything. Ah it’s the key to our national security, it’s the key to our private economy, you should be building the Keystone Pipeline, you should be building the Sandpiper Pipeline et cetera, it’s also a solution to our transportation woes, if you start building these pipelines and getting these trains moving.

TB: Thank you. We’re back to starting with you, John, for this next question. (Clears throat) Our members tell us that federal tax reform is one of the things that is needed most desperately at the federal level. So what are your 3 top priorities, if you have them for federal tax reform? And what’s your view on tax inversions?

JD: Well, my number one priority as in as in regards to tax reform is the implementation of a flat tax. Now, I’m not gonna – blow smoke and and tell ya it’s gonna be 9-9-9 like Herman Cain. Ah it’s gonna be a lot closer to the 15 mark I think. But I strongly strongly am a proponent of a flat tax, and why is that? Because our current “progressive” tax system, which is actually quite regressive, because what you have is a situation where, lemme go back to those lobbying again, you have people who are creating loopholes within the tax ah code that allow for a much smaller effective tax rate for those who can afford a really good accountant to go through and pick and choose and take what they want – and they will pay a lot smaller effective tax rate than a person working for a low-wage job. Now – the one way that we can actually solve this once and for all, by implementing a flat tax. Would be to — once again – get money out of Congress so that we can actually put it through. Now – I have a plan to do just that.

In my hands right now, I have a contract that was drafted for me by George W. Bush’s former chief ethics counsel. It’s the first of its kind. And it legally binds me to not accept the kind of bribery that I was just describing in the previous question. I won’t accept this money. I won’t accept these bribes. And I won’t be overly influenced. Now, Tom and Joe, they can’t sign this because their parties won’t allow it. And this isn’t because, like I said, this isn’t because they’re bad people, it’s simply because their parties won’t allow it. And you know I can tell ya, I’ve been on this trail for awhile – Joe is a good guy. I can’t take it away from him. And Tom, I try to hate him, he’s the lead dog, y’know. (TE and others laugh) But the truth of the matter is, he’s just the kind of guy I’d like to have a beer with.

But it doesn’t matter. None of that matters at all. Because so long as you have that R or that D next to your name, you are contributing to the disenfranchisement of the American people.

TB: Thank you. Tom, your 3 priorities for federal tax reform and views on tax inversion.

TE: Thank you (to JD) I really appreciate that, that’s nice. (audience laughs) Ah, well it’s not every day that we get that in this wonderful world of electoral politics. I mean, everybody in this ah thing it seems more and more – sorry to get off track – but I’m gonna say it – it seems more and more what I find in our electoral process in this country, we have too many people who think they are running against people and things. You’re running for something, you’re presenting something, you’re selling your vision of whatever it is and you’re letting the people who vote decide whether they agree with it or not, and whether you’re the person that should be representing them and working for them. And I like that, and we do that.

This issue, tax reform, is probably the biggest issue that Congress will face outside of those external issues that we’ve all been reading about, and watching, happening in other parts of the world. Tax reform will be one of the most, if not the most, if not the most, important issue for our economy in the next ah 3 years.

Ah whether we can achieve something as grand as ah my colleague is talking about, that would be fantastic. But in the meantime, lower the taxes. You gotta reduce the effective rate on everybody. This has been done before. Reduce taxes, reduce regulations, and guess what? Institute policies that create these strong U.S. dollars. All right? Stop printing money. We’ve gotta actually answer the call today. We did this back in the eighties. Took a few years, but then our economy was set off in what has been described by some economists as the boom, the 25-year boom, the greatest period of wealth creation that the world has ever known. And we can do that again with some simple steps.

Ah in the meantime, ah the other part of it was tax reform and tax inversions. I wish somebody would start writing about the fact that because of the tax policies in this country, we have forced people that are running companies with fiduciary obligations to their shareholders to actually do things like ah do tax inversions, which maybe they would prefer not to, but the tax policies created by the elected representatives have given them no choice. We need to change that.

TB: Thank you. And Joe Perske.

JP: Y’know, ah it’s always nice to hear some people say “I’d like to cut taxes, I want to reduce taxes,” it plays music to a lot of ears. But it takes something else to actually take that scalpel and say “Where are you gonna make these cuts?” And then you have to make those tough choices. So oftentimes we hear people playing that music, but they don’t always have the the scalp on their hands to make those cuts.

But we can work better inside our budget. We can work ah leaner, meaner. We’ve done that in the city of Sartell, and when when we came to this economic downturn, and some of you folks know the way I operate: I cut coupons, I change my own oil, I do my own auto repairs. I might even do my own dental work if my wife would let me. (JP and audience laugh)

But I’ll tell you what, we can be leaner and meaner within budgets, and we need we need to do that and take a look at that. Also taking a look at jobs, expanding this economy. When we have more jobs, we’ll have more people at work, we’ll have more tax dollars coming in. And also closing the loopholes. Those folks that aren’t paying their fair share. Nobody really likes to pay taxes. But some people do pay their fair share and they’re okay about it. But some people want to just find ways to get around that. We need to close those loopholes. We need to take a look at subsidies. Subsidies for companies that really don’t need those subsidies to run to run a business. We ah want to encourage business but not just give it away.

When it comes to inversion, we don’t want companies leaving this country, we don’t want them moving overseas. We, again, we applaud those companies that play by play by the rules. Those companies that pay their workers well, those companies that have benefits for their workers, those companies that respect clean water, clean air, our natural resources. We want to make sure that those companies stay here and play by the rules. It becomes unfair trade when we have them going overseas or we’re buying products made in a company made in a country that doesn’t respect workers and doesn’t respect the environment.

TB: Thank you. Now I’ll move on to our next topic, and Tom you’ll address this one first. And this is regarding entitlements. So 4 years ago, before the Sixth District debate, I explored the Web site And I went back this year, and here’s what’s changed, in those 4 years since 2010. Social Security liability went from 14-1/2 to almost 18 trillion dollars, trillion with a T. Prescription drug liability went from 19 to 20 trillion dollars. And Medicare liability went from 77 to 80 trillion dollars. So total unfunded liabilities, liabilities we don’t have any money to pay, were almost 111 trillion in 2010 and have increased by four trillion dollars in four years. Trillion bucks a year.

So the US government entitlement programs are in jeopardy. Yet few politicians show the fortitude or willingness to tackle the problem. I know when our DC contingent goes every year, we ask “What are you doin about unfunded entitlements?” So how will you specifically address this issue if you are elected to Congress?

TE: Well that’s perfect, Teresa. The ah if I could bring a magic wand with me, and I will just do whatever and it will and it will be so. Ah this is the biggest challenge. That our country, not just Congress, but our country has in the next ten years if not sooner. Ah it’s been a challenge. And there are other plans, and people have been vilified, people have been skewered for suggesting ah different reforms to our entitlement system.

But I think before we can get there, before we can actually ah develop the political will, by creating relationships on both sides of the aisle, before you can get there, you gotta have a growing and robust private economy. It’s very difficult for anyone right now to imagine ah stepping out on the stepping out on that cliff without seeing the business growth that we should be having in this country. Today, I believe, we have as few a number able-bodied adults fully employed as we had, I think somebody said since the early 1970s. Ah maybe it was 1980, 79-80, somewhere in there.

That’s gotta change. You have to reduce the overall tax burden. And I know that some people like to say that “Gosh, y’know, we need to play this class warfare in this country, and it’s the fair share et cetera.” Yeah, everybody should be paying for the services we expect government to provide. But we should have an environment, an economic environment in this country, that provides everybody an equal opportunity to participate and grow new ideas and new businesses. You start to create that type of an environment, you have a an economy that’s growing the way we have experienced it in this country. You’ll solve a lot of these problems and then you will have the political will to address these serious problems over the next few years.

TB: Thank you. Joe?

JP: Yes, obviously there are many challenges that we’re facing, especially as all of us grow older. And what’s gonna happen to our future? That’s again, I I respect Tom’s answers, getting this economy to grow. The more we have jobs, the more we have better-paying jobs, the more this prosperity will grow and the more dollars will be there for the programs we have for the elderly, for the less fortunate. But that comes through education. We need to have a workforce that’s gonna be able to compete in world markets. We need people that are gonna have the innovation and the entrepreneurship to to grow this economy. And that comes from an investment into education.

But who are we really as Americans? And we’re not gonna turn our backs on those that are less fortunate. We’re gonna make sure that they do have that hand up. Not a handout. So they can get a better education. So that they don’t have to make a tough decision between medication and groceries. And what about our veterans? We’re not gonna turn our backs on our veterans.

We we have issues with these entitlement programs. But we’re not gonna turn our back on those Americans that have supported us year after year after year, and given their lives and given their their ah opportunity to to better themselves and and and to support us. We won’t turn our backs on those folks.

TB: John?

JD: So, the reason that politicians don’t like to talk about entitlement reform is because the voting base is largely consisting of people who are near or close to the Social Security and Medicare age. Now. I’m a young guy. So let’s be real. This burden is on me. These unfunded liabilities, that’s on me. And so no one could be closer to this problem than a guy who’s going to be dealing with it. Now – 111 trillion, did you say, in unfunded liabilities?

TB: 115 now.

JD: Wow. That’s impressive. Now. The best way for us to get ahold of this thing, to get those funds replenished, is to get this economy going for the younger generation. We can look at student loans, of which I’ve proposed a plan. Online. Unlike my opponents. And and once again, ah y’know we can talk about the fact that Social Security is – I mean, this is really a giant Ponzi scheme, and the jig is up. This thing is comin due, and we don’t have any money to pay it.

So what are we gonna do? I think we should take the power away from the two parties that have been sellin us down the river for the last 40 years. I know there’s not a lot of people of my generation in this room right now, but I’m sure there’ s a lot of people with grandchildren and children who care – and don’t want to see the future of this country continually sold down the river. It’s not it’s not conducive to getting these programs replenished. If you want Social Security to be replenished, if you want Medicare to be replenished, you’ve got to start letting young people get into the economy. What does that mean, student loan debt, things like this. And so – am I running against something? Yes. I am. I’m running against something. A system that has sold us down the river for the for a very long time.

But I’m not running just against something, Tom. As I’ve been pointing out, I have a plan. I have a lot of plans! And they’re there for everyone to see. Now – specifically with entitlement reform, the one thing I can do, right away, get onto the fraud. Get onto that. That’s a big thing that we can do right away, just to start to alleviate some of these little things. There’s a lot of fraud, a lot of corruption that goes on with pulling the funds out that aren’t well deserved. I want to make sure the people who have been putting in get what they’re promised and not the people who are trying to extort the system.

TB: Thank you. Thank you for observing this thought.

JD: Thank you.

TB: Okay. And now next question. Ah starting with Joe Perske. What do you consider to be St. Cloud’s most significant transportation issues, and what do you see as the federal government’s role in addressing them?

JP: Ah I think we talked about that earlier. And again (clears throat), having been on the area planning organization for a good number of years as mayor and then on the council, ah y’know we we prioritize on what the issues are that we have. We have a list of things that we’d like to see happen. Obviously the I-94 corridor expansion is one of those, getting that third lane up here to St. Cloud. Ah North Star Corridor. Ah we’ve had that on the radar for quite some time. We actually had a chance to bring it up here, for for pennies on the dollar having federal money available to do that. But it got voted down.

And Mr. Emmer, I know that you’ve been in opposition to North Star and you probably still are. That’s one thing that we need to have happen up here. What it would do: allow us to get down to the Vikings games, the Twins games, get down to the U of M hospital, get down to the airport, get get our people down there to actually to have jobs down in the metro. But coming back the other way: be able to have people come up here and ah be productive in St. Cloud, get the St. Cloud State students up here, get up to St. Cloud Airport. Believe it or not, those students might even get a chance to sleep or read on the train as well (laughs) instead of drive driving crazy like they are. Replacement of the parking that’s that’s necessary when you have all these roads filled with cars, and these parking lots filled and overcrowded. Ah we work together ah as an APO to find out what again like the West Metro Corridor, to bring transportation through the city.

JB: Thank you. John.

JD: So. You may not know that when Michele Bachmann was serving this district, we ended up dead last as far as the district goes in transportation dollars, federal level. So we’re not getting that those dollars that we need in a state where we have very very severe weather conditions. I mean obviously, all of us have driven around around here – just the most treacherous in the in the country, really – and so I believe that we can start to scoop a lot more of those federal dollars to a state that actually needs it. Now – when we get this money, it’s important that we look at roads and bridges. Roads and bridges are what’s going to matter. Ah we can take a look at this Green Line – this is comical at best. It stops at stop lights. It stops at stop lights. Well, why not drive a car? (laughs) It seems quite ridiculous to me to put in something like this that has actually not improved congestion at all. And it’s actually probably more congested. Trucks can’t make a turn down on University there to get in where they need to go to unload their their goods.

So the focus should be on roads and bridges, and the focus should also be on getting to Congress and getting these things done. Now I’m not saying that I’m going to go there and – you know – wave a wand – maybe I’ll borrow Tom’s wand – but the point is, I won’t be able to wave a wand to get this done. But as the only Independent in United States House, which should be astonishing by the way, we do not have a single Independent in the House. That’s a problem. Now, as the only one there, I will be in a better position to be elevated in importance and a true power broker of the center, as I was saying, to get these things done.

TB: Thank you. Tom?

TE: Ah you asked about priorities first. Obviously, the I-94 Corridor, adding lanes in both directions. It was a nice start, that they started to expand down by Albertville and Rogers, but it’s gotta come all the way to St. Cloud. Ah it’s gotta do it a lot sooner than within beyond the next 20 years. I think ah it’s not fair to suggest that this area was dead last because of the representative in Congress. Frankly, Congress abdicated its responsibility a few years ago, to dedicate specific funds to certain transportation projects. They likened a road and a bridge in my opinion to a bike trail and a hockey rink. And that’s not right. I think when you look at what’s been happening, and I I don’t know that my colleagues know this, is what we’ve been getting is block grants essentially from Washington to St. Paul, and then they figure out where the where the money’s gonna go.

I believe the future is going to require that we keep more of our dollars at home. Ah as I understand it about every dollar that we send as a state to Washington, we get back roughly 73 cents. That’s not a very good deal. And ah if we keep more of our dollars here, we let the local authorities address the projects of most need. Ah I think it’ll work better but in the meantime, it’s about the Highway Trust Fund. The Highway Trust Fund has been robbed for years. It was designed as a revenue stream to build, repair and maintain highways and bridges across this country. It’s been used for all kinds of other projects, and it’s gotta go back to funding roads and bridges.

Transit may be important, but then those who may be and want those projects need to find ah other sources of revenue for them. In the meantime, the priorities, and we should set priorities, should be about roads and bridges.

TB: Thank you. Okay we’re gonna mix it up a little bit and start this next round with Joe, and then we’ll come back this way, and work this rotation.

(JP asks question, unclear)

TB: Yes, but we’re gonna we’re gonna start with you and come back this way now, so that we’re reversing who you answer behind. Got it?

JD: Standard S Graph Format, Joe. Don’t you play fantasy football? (audience laughs)

TB: Okay. That’s where I learned how to do it.

(JD, TE and TB cross talk about fantasy football, audience laughs)

TB: All right.

JD: I guarantee you, I am the strongest fantasy football player.

JP: Bring it on!

(TE, audience laugh)

JP: Bring it on.

TB: All right. Ah what are your current views on immigration, and what needs to be done to improve our current system?

JP: Immigration, y’know that’s an issue that we seem seem not to be able to get our hands around. It’s a it’s a topic that we’d like to address but nobody seems to really want to actually bring it out and all the issues out onto the table. Ah we’re the greatest military nation in the world. Yet we don’t have secure borders. I I find that difficult to believe. I think we owe it to the American public that we have secure borders, that we know who’s coming and we have control of those borders.

But yet that doesn’t happen. Why doesn’t it happen? We have millions of undocumented folks in this, immigrants in this country. How did they get there? How did they get here? And what what are they doing? We don’t have a policy that we actually know what’s going on. And both parties are to blame about this. We need to have open and honest dialogue about this issue. And and that’s and that’s gotta happen. We’ve gotta take again that polarizing ping-pong ball and not necessarily hit it back and forth and blame each other. But focus on the issue and and find resolutions to this to this issue.

Now as far as, as far as all those children that are coming from Latin America, dealing with them, we need a process that works for them. The the present process is not working, where where it takes over a year sometimes to have these children processed. Will they get into families? They get into homes? And then all of a sudden you’re breaking you’re breaking up their their family or taking them out of school. Sending them back. No, we need a process that works and we need to start addressing it.

But right not, again, it’s not a hot topic. We don’t hear it on the news right now. But yet the problem is there. So again, we need to bring it out into the open. And we need to have strict guidelines and and responsibilities and rules about how this is gonna work. So that everybody understands what we’re doing with this issue.

JB: Thank you Joe. Tom.

TE: Ah well you don’t hear a lot about immigration right now because I think more people, especially the public health folks and policymakers, are worried about the Ebola scare. I I think that’s the big issue. But when it comes to immigration in the future, ah first off, what a great country! The reason that we have an immigration problem is because people want to be in America, because this is where the opportunities are. Ah we want that to continue, but in the meantime, you’ve got to secure the borders. You’ve gotta enforce the laws that we already have on the books. You’ve gotta help local law enforcement do the the job that they have to do. You have to strengthen the E-Verify system or something similar for employers, so employers know who it is that they’re hiring.

Ah and at the end of the day, I think what a lot of people want to stay away from, and I’ll I’ll say it out loud, amnesty is not an option. We did this once before. Amnesty simply reinforces what is already broken with the system. If you want to be a citizen of this great country, fantastic. We want you, get at the end of the line, follow the process. If you think the laws are overly burdensome or they somehow provide obstacles unreasonable obstacles, then we need to look at those laws constantly and reform them. But again, if we’re going to be a country that’s based on the rule of law, then we need to honor the rule of law.

TB: Thank you. And John Denney.

JD: So I’m an Independent, where I get to say the things that nobody else will say. Right. The unfortunate reality is that the economy in America is is down. We we have slid in the world rankings in every major category. Hard, for the last 30-40 years. And so, it’s not necessarily our economy that people are rushing across the border to get to. What they’re doing is largely fleeing violent situations in their countries that are perpetrated upon them by drug cartels. So where most people, and you’ll hear the regular talking points, “Hey, let’s build a fence. Let’s build a 49-billion-dollar fence.” I don’t know about anyone out here, but I was hoppin fences when I was six years old. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to get around a fence. And it shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that’s a horrible idea.

So, if you look online, you’ll see I have a plan to secure America now that includes securing the border, it’s four different prop things, first we have to reform drug policy. Right now, in the Middle East, we are bombing oil refineries. Why are we doing that? Because we’re trying to take out ISIS’s revenue stream. Drug cartels south of the border get 70% of their revenue from the sale of marijuana alone in this country. We need to look at reforming drug policy so that drug cartels are not terrorizing Honduras and these other Central American countries, sending human traffickers who are bringing these people across. That’s a problem.

Second, enticement programs. Tom talked about it a little bit. We have to stop with the enticement programs, and things like Bush’s Human Trafficking Victims Act, which flew through the Legislature but it was very manipulatible substance. That’s a problem. So I’d like to see that taken care of also. Streamlining Green Card access. That’s big for small business. And just more efficiently processing these citizenship requests.

Obviously it’s one thing we can do to deal with the children and things of this nature who do come across in an unfortunate situation.

TB: Thank you. And John, we’ll start with you now, on this this next one. And then we’re coming back to you Joe, and working our way back this way. So do you support or oppose building the Keystone XL Pipeline? And what impacts do you foresee this decision will have on future energy supply?

JD: I support the Keystone Pipeline. So long as we can do it environmentally safe. Now as a person who’s planning for the next 40 years of this country as opposed to just the next 2 years until my next election. I’m going to look at things that are going to help us going forward ah into the future. So a pipeline, this is actually believe it or not one of the more environmentally sound ways to move oil.

So, one thing I would like to see is businesses putting up the proper amount of – collateral, if you will? So that in case there is spills, in case we have these issues, which has proven – these things have happened – taxpayers aren’t footing the bill. It’s just another form of a bailout. For a company who wants to make millions and billions of dollars in profits on this pipeline, to not at least be able to give us some some assurances that in the event of a spill, in the event of something, y’know, we could have this cleaned up without taxpayers having to reach into their dollar – or into their wallets, and and bail out another company. That’s not free market principles.

Ah that’s just another situation where we can talk about subsidies and these people being favored over others. That can all be handled when we get in there with real independence. That’s what’s gonna change the face of American politics. Going forward, you’re seeing it in the Senate, it’s going to start happening in the House, it’s going to begin with me, we’re gonna change the whole game.

JB: Thank you. Joe, your thoughts on the XL Pipeline.

JP: Ah yes, I definitely think it’s a way we should be going. We we take a look at the trains coming through Sartell, coming through St. Cloud. How many trains can we bear? And it’s only going to get worse.

Is the pipeline a more efficient way to move oil? Yes it is. Are we gonna just put it through? No we’re not. Ah the reason it’s taking time is because we’ve got to do it right. And so let’s do it right. And let’s make sure that we’re also doing it with American labor, American steel, American products. Because that’s going to help our economy grow as well. But you don’t just say “We’re gonna put a pipeline in and draw a line through the map and say this is where it’s gonna go.” It’s gotta be done in an in an environmentally secure way, an environmentally prudent way, so that we do what’s best. And again, it’s gonna help alleviate those trains that are up on the on the tracks here that is just horrendous. That we can’t even get grain to market, we can’t get goods to market, we’ve got so much oil on those, on those rails. Not to mention the safety factor as well.

So yes, we can move that oil through the pipeline. But a bigger question is, is what I’d like to see is, where are we going with this oil? We’ve got those fracking sands up in North ah North Dakota, that fracking oil that we’re getting out of the ground, we have the tar sands of Canada, these huge deposits. Where do we really want to go with that in the future? And what are we – what are we gonna actually do? Is that the, is that the way we wanna go? Do we wanna go back to ah oil, to petroleum products? Or do we want to move away, away from them? Go into solar, go into wind, go into other alternative energies. And and as we move this oil, who’s gonna benefit? Is the American public gonna benefit? Or is it gonna be multinational corporations? Who’s actually benefiting as we take a look at how impacts the environment? And how it impacts the air? Something we need to look at.

TB: Thank you. And Tom.

TE: Yes. I ah believe we should be building the Keystone Pipeline. Yes, I believe we should be building the Sandpiper Pipeline. Ah ah it’s interesting, ah I think it was 1972, the Clean Water Act, if I’m not mistaken, clean water, clean air, ah – it was policymakers and environmental folks set up these requirements, and – I might have missed something, but my understanding is the Keystone Pipeline proposal made it through that. And ah at the end of a long and arduous process. And there were some concerns raised in I believe the state of Nebraska.

Ah once you set these things in motion, it’s not about just drawing a line and saying “We’re gonna build it.” Once you set the requirements and people make major investments and try to comply with those, you don’t change the rules at the end of the process. Ah I find this amazing because we’ve got too many politicians that are doing this. “Oh, I like the pipeline! I like the idea!” Y’know we need to be energy independent! We need to mine more of our own resources, the precious metals up north, the Bakken, we need to allow the our resources to go into the world market. We need to do this because it’ll bring down the price of energy overall.

And frankly, whether it’s petroleum, whether it’s clean coal, whether it’s natural gas, no matter what it is, solar wind, everything can add to the problem so that we maintain the highest standard of living in the country. And I’d like to leave that for my kids. But the thing that – it it really gets disturbing when you hear politicians say, “I just don’t like the route.” That’s the new code for “I’m gonna try and stay on the right side of the environmental extremists while still telling people who believe that this country can rise once again to the level of economic robust growth that it should have.” We gotta have people who are willing to stand up and say “Build the pipeline, build it now, whether it’s Sandpiper, whether it’s Keystone, get it done.”

TB: Thank you. And Tom, you’ll start with this next question.

TE: Oh, thank you.

TB: What would your –

TE: I was being left out, Teresa.

TB: Ah, there you go. Ah what would your approach be to controlling costs and eliminating the deficit at the U.S. Postal Service?

TE: laughs

TB: That came from a member.

TE: Well, it’s it’s interesting. The the problem is almost too big. Y’know it’s funny, how many people realize that the U.S. Postal Service is actually a privately owned corporation? Most people don’t. So I think first you gotta look at the way they’re operating it, and you let them start to address some of the problems.

One of the biggest issues that I’ve been told is that some of the contracts, the labor contracts, the pension benefits et cetera. Those will need to be addressed, and Congress, to the extent Congress can be involved, should be part of that solution. Where it goes? I mean, it’s it’s interesting, how our communication has changed over just the last 5 years, the last 10 years, the last 20 years.

I was in a Chamber meeting the other day, and Tom Weaver over in Anoka, he pulled out his his phone, his cell phone, and you remember, it’s one of those big phones that we used to have in our car? And he said “I’m gonna go get the newest flip phone technology today.” Well, think about how that has changed, the way we do our business in this country. How many people just live off cell phones now? Same thing when it comes to the mail. Ah the mail will be changing as well, and it’s up to the U.S. Postal Service and others to figure out where is that going to exist and how does it make sure that it’s self sustaining instead of running up that down escalator that seems to be going faster and faster?

TB: Thank you.

JD: So, like Tom said —

TB: John.

JD: — oh, I’m sorry.

TB: No, that’s fine.

JD: — this has recently been turned into a private company. So, how much of this is my responsibility? I don’t think much. What he brought up there with technology, ah looking forward, I think this is the biggest thing that separates me from other candidates right? I’m very much the technology candidate. One of my 5 big planks is talking about Net Neutrality. Talking about issues surrounding the internet. Talking about securing our networks, that’s a big thing in national security. Ah that’s where you’ll see the post office moving, is toward online distribution of mail, basically going forward.

Now obviously there’s always gonna be letter people who like to write letters or y’know send a carrier pigeon, whatever. That’s fine. But going forward, we just need to make sure we’re on top of these things technologically ah that’s that’s about all that I can say on that.

TB: Thank you. And Joe.

JP: I’m a little bit surprised by the question. Ah yes, the postal service is obviously changing. The demand for catalogs, for newspapers, magazines is all disappearing. The the load is changing in what they’re carrying. Information, boy I tell ya, when I was in Europe, I’d write a letter, put it in the mail, and it’d take 10 days to get here to Minnesota and 10 days to get back and it’d be 3 weeks before you’d get an answer in response to what you actually had asked. Well now you can get that in probably less than 3 seconds.

It’s just amazing again how the world is changing. And we need to change along with it. The innovation, as far as processing mail, that too. But I I will tell you, the mail service has been a part of our heritage. As I go around and I meet people, especially talking to workers, retired workers, they’re proud of the work that they did with the U.S. Post Office and the time they served there. And it’s always been under a bit of stress about how how those y’know those folks have done, and and the dollars that we’re spending. But actually, you think about what they’ve done, since the time of Ben Franklin, actually applaud them for the work that they’ve done, And they don’t want to lose those pensions. They want to make sure that they have those dollars that they had been promised through that. And they asked to make sure that those pensions don’t disappear.

But as far as where we’re going ahead with this, again innovation and technology. It’s gonna move us forward. But I always think we’re probably gonna have that handwritten letter that’s gonna get passed throughout house to house or person to person

TB: Okay. This also came from a member. And Joe you’ll start with this one. Should the federal government decriminalize marijuana or let the states sort it out?

JP: Wow. (audience laughs) Okay. Okay. Well, well, let’s let’ s take take a look at that. Ah obviously there’s been a lot of discussion between communities as far as what they want to do with that, states what they want to do with that. But in Sartell I’ve listened to my schoolpeople, my principals, my superintendent. I listen to my police chief. And no, they don’t want to recreationalize marijuana. They want to keep it out of schools. They want to keep it out of out of recreational hands for them.

But is there a medicinal use for it? Absolutely. And I’ll give you firsthand evidence of it. When my daughter had leukemia, she was suffering. She’d had the chemo and radiation, very painful to her. We couldn’t find a medication that was gonna work for her. And so one of the doctors said, “Well we do have this other one. It’s a derivative from marijuana.” And we tried it, it worked, she got the relief she needed. So is there a place for marijuana? Absolutely. If it if it can be controlled, and used as a substance to improve people’s pain, whether it be bone cancer, or something else that’s very severe. Or another another ailment a person has, what makes that any different from any other drug?

But to make it a recreational drug, so that people can just use it for that purpose? I go back to my police, I go back to my school people, and they’re telling me no, they don’t want to see it.

TB: Thank you. Tom.

TE: I’ve always been at a state level, and I think your question was very direct. It was, whoever wrote it said “is it a federal issue or should the states sort it out and decriminalize it?” Well first off, from my perspective, when I was in the State Legislature I always opposed it. I ah don’t agree with it. And I don’t think that the medicinal issue is exactly what the legislators say. You should either legalize it or not. But it’s a state issue. We’re running for Congress. At the congressional level, I think the federal government needs to leave this to the states and let the states sort it out.

TB: Thank you. John.

JD: Well at the federal level you can definitely get it off of Schedule 1. That would be one start in allowing people to actually be able to research this and find out all the true medicinal properties of it.

Now, any time a young guy gets up here and talks about marijuana, you’re gonna get the eyerolls, here we go, a bunch of self-indulgent hedonists just wanna to get stoned. (audience laughs) That is not the case here. This is something that can raise revenue, save us money and secure America. As well, like I just said, talking about the border. Joe talks about how hey, y’know, the cops don’t want it legalized. Why is that? That’s because it’s profitable. It’s profitable for police and and the prison lobby to get in there and to fill these cells. We we stack up y’know ten deep of of marijuana smokers in a cell, and we’re letting letting go of sex offenders. Happens all the time, you read it in the paper. This is what’s happening. We incarcerate more people in this country than anywhere else in the world. More than China. And we don’t do anything more than China.

Now – (laughs) also. In regards to this issue. I do think that everone overlooks the hemp part of this issue. George Washington grew hemp. Hemp is not something that gets you—it has no psychoactive properties. It is simply an industrial product. It can be — is biodiesel. Biofuels. Like I said, just an incredible textile product. And we could open up brand new, y’know by just simply letting hemp come through, we could open up brand-new industries in America, we could grow it right here in the Sixth District, once again, it’s not a drug, but – for those of you who are worried about the children. I have news for you. Drug dealers don’t card. And if you look in Colorado, where they have legalized, drug use is down amongst the youth. The first way to make something cool for kids to do is to prohibit it. Make it banned. Now it’s cool. Now we’re gonna do it. We need to get our hands around this thing and regulate it. We are not very progressive on this issue at all, we are one of the last Western nations to look at drug reform policy, and it would be a big issue for me.

TB: Okay. We’re ready for closing comments. Ah we’re gonna start with Tom Emmer, and I’d like you all to to comment on why are you the best person to be elected as our Congressional leader for the next two years? As you finish up with your closing comments, so you’ll have two minutes. Tom?

TE: Ah thank you, again my name is Tom Emmer, and I’m running for Congress in Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District. I wanna thank the Rotary, I wanna thank Teresa and everybody who’s here today for taking the time to care enough to show up and – although somebody said to me, “What’s happening today? I think there’s a certain representative at the front table that said, “I didn’t know anything was happening today? Why is the table up there? What’s goin on?

Ah this is where it happens. You get to find out who we are personally, you get to listen to us, ah here’s what I’m going to tell ya. I wanna work for you. I would like to be your representative in Washington. It’s ah it’s been an interesting journey for me, and I believe that it’s brought me to this point because in the next 10 years we are gonna see more opportunity for change in this country, especially within Congress and our state legislatures, than perhaps at anytime during my lifetime. Mine. And maybe some others.

JD: Go in triple digits.

Think about this. Ah McConnell, Boehner, Reid, Pelosi, McCain. They’re all gonna be leaving, folks. Ah they’re all gonna be retiring or ah they will be voted out by their the people that they work for. And it’ll happen within the next 2-4-6-8 years. The other thing that’s going to happen is the bureaucracies, the agencies of government, the average age is in the mid-fifties of upper management. That’s gonna be turning over as well, we’re already seeing it at the state level. It’s a great opportunity for change, I’d like to be a representative that goes and works for you, by building relationships and actually being able to get things done when you call. My name is Tom Emmer. Please vote on November fourth and I would really appreciate your vote. Thanks for having me.

TB: Thank you. John.

JD: Tom’s gonna have a hard time workin for you. So’s Joe. Because so long as we have the corrupt system of legalized bribery that is in place in government right now, we’re not gonna get anything done. That’s the reality, and it’s it’s the thing nobody ever addresses.

Now – I have felt like a long, for a long time my vote is wasted and I know a lot of people in my generation feel that way. It just – doesn’t matter. There’s so much apathy out there about government right now. Voting numbers are so very down.

Now – the reason for that, most people speculate is because of uninformed voters. I’m not buying it. I actually think it’s the exact opposite, it’s because we’re informed, that you don’t see a lot of action in the polls. Because it doesn’t matter. Whether Tom gets elected or whether Joe gets elected. That wouldn’t change a thing. They’ll both go to the back of the line of their respective parties and and work their way up through, just like anyone else, but nothing very meaningful at all will change in government.

If you want your voice to matter, if you want your vote to matter, consider me. Please. Consider me. As your Independent congressman, like I said I’ll be able to put you first in line for every congressional decision. Also, and this is this is another another part that y’know I don’t really touch on, but – none of the promises that are made up here by these two are enforceable. But what I’m offering you is a first-of-its-kind, legally binding contract. It’s not a gimmick. George W. Bush’s former chief ethics counsel doesn’t put his name on gimmicks. This is real. We can change the face of American politics, and all I need is a little bit of help from you.

So when you get in that booth, remember remember on the fourth of November. It doesn’t matter how much money they’ve spent. None of this matters. It’s just you and a pencil. And we are a centimeter away from changing the face of American politics. All it takes is a little bit of belief. And I think you need some hopeless optimism, Mr. Fitzsimmons, to do these things. I think that’s what’s gonna be required.

So. If you really wanna make a statement. If you really want your voice to matter, give it to the guy who can guarantee you he’s only going to work for you. I’m John Denney, I’m the Independence Party candidate, and I’m a centimeter away from changing the face of American politics.

TB: Thank you. Joe Perske, you get the final comments today.

JP: I’ve been waiting for this question because I’ve wanted to tell you what I’m all about and I want to speak from the heart because this election has been flying under the radar. We can do better because Congress isn’t coming together to solve the problems we’re facing as a nation and the gridlock is killing us. The government shutdown, the sequestration, the fiscal cliffs are all signs of a dysfunctional Congress and Michele Bachmann has not done anything to get us out of that gridlock and I’m afraid my opponent Tom Emmer is just going to be more of the same.

In fact, I’m in this race because of Tom. Had it been a moderate Republican, I wouldn’t be here. I would be teaching school in Sartell. I would still seeing… being myself as the mayor of Sartell. But we’ve got to change. Now this is difficult for me to say because I’ve always been taught to be a nice polite person. But shouldn’t we believe that a person’s future performance should be based on what the person has done in the past? And I think we need to look at Tom’s past. Tom has been very dividing. Very divisive. Even in his own party. In the legislature he’s been bullying, threatening. Not just with Democrats, but again with his own party. He has a record of being uncooperative. Even shouting across the aisles. And even at sometimes being self-serving when it came down to some legislation to erase some of the DWI arrests that he had. We need to change that.

I’m running because we have many challenges facing this nation. And these are not Democratic or Republican problems. These are changes that need to happen because we’ve gotta put those polarizing politics aside. In my ten years as mayor and on the council, I’ve always been about people. And my whole life has been about people. Whether it’s being a teacher, being a coach, being a dad, being the mayor or being the husband to that woman over here.

I’m going to hopefully go to Washington and be elected and represent you and do what’s right for you, the people of Minnesota and the people of this great nation. Some of you folks know that I’ve run a hundred marathons in my life. I’ve run 90,000 miles. I have that passion in me and I’ve had it in this campaign and I will take that passion with me to Washington and serve you. I’m very much approachable. It’s the number one thing on my, on my ah sheet. Vote for Joe Perske. You’ll have my trust. I trust you. Thank you.

TB: Uh Tom, did you want a one-minute rebuttal to that?

TE: Ah, no. Thank you for having me today.

TB: Okay, I want to thank all of our participants and the St. Cloud Rotary Club for participating with this Sixth Congressional (laughs) candidates debate. Ah thank you all for being here. And in just a couple of weeks we’ll have the opportunity to pick which centimeter we’re falling in. So thank you all and thanks for being part of rotary and the chamber.


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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