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by CESAR SALAZARDemocratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) candidates got a chance to introduce themselves to Winonans prior to an upcoming special primary election at a forum hosted by the Winona County DFL and College Democrats last week. A special primary election for the Minnesota First Congressional District will be held on May 24.The five DFL candidates present were Sarah Brakebill-Hacke, of Preston, Minn., Rick DeVoe, of Red Wing, Minn., Richard Painter, of Faribault, Minn., Jeff Ettinger, of Austin, Minn., and Candice Deal-Bartell, of Mankato, Minn., who was unable to attend and had her friend Corinne Ehrfurth speak on her behalf. Three other candidates will be on the ballot but did not attend.Brakebill-Hacke began her opening statement by saying that widespread conservative views had begun to spill into the Democratic Party. “I challenge everyone to consider this while we watch a Democratic majority in Washington struggle with the embarrassment of Joe Manchin holding our progress hostage and selling it off to the highest bidder,” she said. Noting that another DFL candidate was once a Republican, she added “You should support a DFL candidate.” Brakebill-Hacke is a Master of Philosophy candidate at the University of Cambridge and a Yale graduate.“I’m running to vanquish the Republican Party and return the Democratic Party to the people,” DeVoe said in his opening remarks. “The Republican Party is a clear and present danger to democracy. We Democrats didn’t pick this fight, but we better get in it. A fascist minority has taken over the Republican Party, and we’re sure to face one of its standard-bearers in this race.” DeVoe is an independent business owner in Red Wing and has served as political director for many grassroots campaigns across the U.S.“This is an election that I believe can be won by the DFL and it should be won by 99 percent of the vote,” Painter said in his opening statement. “Why? Because the Republican Party is not representing 99 percent of the people — the top 1 percent got the tax cut under Donald Trump.” Painter is the former Chief White House Ethics Lawyer under the George W. Bush administration, a University of Minnesota law professor, and vice-chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.“Since I’ve known her, Candice has noticed the needs in the Mankato area and has collaborated to build a community through her entrepreneurial endeavors,” Ehrfurth said regarding Deal-Bartell. “Candice is running for this seat as a lifelong DFLer, to support our people and policies that support the people.” Deal-Bartell is an early education advocate and founder and director of Cultivate Mankato Child Development and Resource Center.“The incident on January 6 had to alarm all of us, and even worse our local Congressperson Jim Hagedorn couldn’t even bring himself to certify the election after that event occurred,” Ettinger said in his opening remarks. He continued, describing the high stakes of this election, “Republicans had their nominating convention last weekend, and basically all of their leading candidates are still denying the election.” Ettinger is the former CEO of Hormel Foods and is the co-chair of Governor Tim Walz’s Council on Economic Expansion.The first topic presented to the candidates dealt with mental health and overcoming Republican resistance to adequately funding health services.Describing how federal support for people with disabilities had eroded, DeVoe said, “We cannot overcome the Republican resistance; we have to overwhelm it. [Democrats] have to attain a supermajority of Congress, have a strong president, expand the Supreme Court, end the filibuster, pass a job guarantee, and send the Republican party into exile for at least two or three generations.”“Mental health needs to be a part of all health insurance,” Painter said. “That’s one more reason why a single-payer plan is what makes sense.” He continued, “Most countries are a lot further along than we are. Nobody should tell me I’m a radical for suggesting single-payer health insurance — single-payer health insurance is older than Queen Elizabeth!”“Candice will fight for comprehensive, universal health care for all through a combination of robust public and private options,” Ehrfurth said on behalf of Deal-Bartell. She continued, “Candice believes that we need to ensure that health insurers are adequately covering mental health services … Finally, she plans to invest in training more mental health providers and incentivizing more professionals to enter these health services, especially to serve rural communities.”“On the coverage side, I believe we need a public option for further coverage expansion in our country,” Ettinger said. He continued, “In terms of cost, the next step in the medical field that we need to be addressing is reducing cost. I favor the Medicare prescription drug negotiation bills that are in front of Congress right now, and I also would be supportive of Representative Angie Craig’s bill to cap insulin costs.”“COVID has created behavioral health challenges and so did a Minneapolis cop when he crushed the neck of George Floyd while other police stood by and watched,” Brakebill-Hacke said. “If one good thing can come from it all, it is the recognition of equities in the behavioral and health care systems..” Describing proposals for expanded urgent care for mental illness, she said, “These facilities need to be placed and staffed in high-need areas; places where there are high volumes of crisis calls. Let’s put this into place before Republicans shut them down.”Another topic discussed was education.“It is unacceptable that Republicans are fervently trying to exclude children from education by banning curriculum that creates inclusive educational environments,” Ehrfurth said on behalf of Deal-Bartell. “Candice will fight against this at every turn and ensure that we eliminate racial, ethnic, and gender disparities within our educational system. Specific goals include increasing Title I and special education grants, prioritizing bonds for mental health services and socio-economic support, and investing in teacher training and recruitment programs including forgiving student loan debt for licensed staff.”“We all owe a debt of gratitude to our teachers who already have a difficult job when you think about what they’ve now gone through in the last two years with COVID,” Ettinger said. He said he opposes school vouchers and supports increased special ed funding. “In my opinion, this whole thing with critical race theory is a made-up issue. It’s not taught anywhere in K-12 schools that I’m aware of,” he continued. “I trust our teachers to handle sensitive subjects respectfully. We need to teach about slavery, Native American history, the civil rights movement, and all the things that are important to understand about our country.”“I support a minimum $10,000 hero pay stipend that’s federally funded every year with free tuition and continuing educational training,” Brakebill-Hacke said. “I would also target additional funds to compensate teachers in underserved areas. This is what I mean by responsible investments.” She continued. “Equity and inclusion in public spaces, especially schools, cannot be compromised. Teachers are frontline workers in a cultural battle.”DeVoe remarked about an anti-critical race theory rally that was held in Red Wing, Minn. “Do you realize that Rochester may have to spend $900,000 through the school district because there’s a demand by one of these groups to turn over all of their school curricula so they can examine it and see what they might want to censor? This is where we’re at. This is Christo-fascism, and it’s happening and they’re targeting people. We have to step up and defend our schools against that.”“We need universal pre-K education throughout America,” Painter said. “It makes sense to get parents back into the workforce and to help educate the next generation.” He continued, “Second, teacher pay is way too low … Third, we can not just fund public schools based on taxes and the location of public schools … The rich districts have plenty and the poor districts have very little … We need a substantial federal subsidy for underfunded public school districts.” Another topic discussed was the threat of climate change.“We need to pass the climate provisions that were in the Build Back Better Act,” Ettinger said. “There is still talk in Congress and this year; I’ll focus in on that. Time is of the essence. I support the move from fossil fuels.”Brakebill-Hacke said, “Our contribution to the world is to reduce the carbon footprint of large monoculture farms, encourage and invest in small and medium-sized farms, more farm-to-store healthy food programs, and climate-smart programs such as no-till, reforestation, and cover crops to keep the carbon in the ground.”“Climate change is no longer a problem to be solved, it’s a predicament to be survived,” DeVoe said. DeVoe advocated for his proposed energy savings bonds and pushed for rehabilitating aging infrastructure. Regarding conversation, he added, “We need a Civilian Conservation Corps and educate farmers in the same way we did after the Dust Bowl.”Painter said, “We are going to have to turn to wind, solar, and water-driven energy. We need to make that transition quickly through investment, and a lot of that investment is going to be in rural America and it’s going to benefit the farms. We need to do it, and Congress needs to step up to the plate.”During the Trump Administration, the U.S. lost precious time to stop climate change, and now Biden’s initiatives are also stalled, Ehrfurth said on behalf of Deal-Bartell. “We must incentivize industries and individuals to make clean energy choices, including tax credits for wind and solar power, making the manufacturing and purchasing of energy-efficient vehicles a priority, and incentivizing for clean building and infrastructure development including solar panels, geothermal energy, and wind turbines,” she said.The DFL primary election will be held on May 24, and the general election for this race is on August [email protected]
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