The challenger called for less government while the incumbent called for less partisanship.
Republican Chris Kellett of Brainerd and Rep. John Ward, DFL-Baxter, emphasized different points Tuesday as they addressed a crowd of about 20 at the Brainerd Lakes Area League of Women Voters’ candidate forum in the music room at Central Lakes College in Brainerd.
Kellett, a small business owner in her first run for public office, said it was time for the district’s epidemic of high unemployment and foreclosure figures to end.
“This has to stop,” she said.
She called for government to be reduced and regulations to be streamlined and noted her support for gun and property rights.
“I’ll work hard to protect your freedom,” she said.
Ward pointed to extreme partisanship as a problem at the Legislature which eventually led to a government shutdown that hurt people.
“We need people who are willing to compromise,” he said. “We need to come together eventually.”
Addressing a question on encouraging employment, Kellett favored lowering taxes for everyone and cutting the maze of government red tape.
“We need to have good incentives for businesses to grow,” she said.
Ward pointed to his efforts in the past six years to create and retain jobs. He said bonding bills have played a role in establishing the mountain biking trails near Crosby that have helped that community’s economy. He said he authored bills to help small businesses including one that made the late tax penalty for businesses the same as the penalty for private payments.
“Education is critical to job growth as well,” Ward said.
The retired teacher’s plan for Minnesota to move forward would not rely on accounting tricks or borrowing from Minnesota’s students, he said. Instead, he said, it would include the use of revenue, wise cuts, reform and redesign of government and a long-term stable plan with fair and progressive taxes.
Kellett said she’d like to see an independent panel look at where Minnesotans’ money was going. She said Minnesota has more than 52,000 state employees and the system is top heavy with many earning substantial salaries.
Their philosophies on fighting invasive aquatic species differed with Kellett emphasizing education rather than fines. She said she didn’t think people were going out and purposely endangering the lakes.
Ward said he helped pass a bill that increased penalties, noting that 70 percent of state boaters were violating the laws regarding invasive aquatic species. He also said he recently hosted a forum on this topic that brought together DNR and lake association officials.
Ward said he is opposed to the voter ID amendment. Kellett was in favor of it.
“Using the state Constitution to take away rights — that is wrong,” he said. “I can’t go along with it. Voting is a right that needs to be defended in the Constitution not restricted in our Constitution.”
Kellett disagreed stating there was a problem with fraud.
“Nobody will be disenfranchised,” she said if the voter ID amendment is approved. She said seniors will get state IDs and the only people who will not get to vote are those who should not be voting.
Kellett said she’ll vote yes on the marriage amendment while Ward will vote no. The Republican candidate said she was glad the people would get to decide this rather than judges. Ward said although he agrees with the state statute banning gay marriage he believes the amendment is a discriminatory action.