BAXTER -- Five DFLers who are vying for the District 12B DFL nomination made their case at Tuesday night's candidate forum at Baxter City Hall.
Less than a dozen people attended the forum that was designed to help Democrats find a successor to Steve Wenzel. The Little Falls DFLer represented the central Minnesota district for 29 years.
There was little disagreement on the issues as the candidates informally discussed their qualifications and views on state issues. The five candidates were Paul Radomski, Gregory Spofford, Helen McLennan, Lee Johnston and Debra Copa Nagel.
Radomski, Fort Ripley, a DNR biologist said he was passionate about environmental issues. He also favors consistent, ample school funding and was glad the final education package was more generous than that originally suggested by Gov. Jesse Ventura.
"The governor's (education) proposal really got people nervous," he said.
Radomski also cited the need to contain the cost of prescription drugs, encouraged smart growth and hoped that a settlement would be reached before state workers are scheduled to strike this month.
Spofford of Little Falls stressed what he called his consistent pro-life ethic, including opposition to abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia and smoking. Currently a volunteer coordinator for the Little Falls School District, he has been in education for 25 years. Rural housing and agri-business were important issues identified by Spofford.
Spofford said he supports gun owners' rights but that some controls were needed. He also favored more on-site work place day care.
McLennan, the district manager of the Soil and Water Conservation District in Morrison County, cited her 18 years on the Little Falls School Board and concern for pro-life issues, health care and the state's natural resources.
She said the decline of the family farm has also hurt small businesses in the district. Many small businesses in the Morrison County area have lost employees to firms in Brainerd and St. Cloud. While she is not a hunter she said many family members are zealous hunters.
"I do certainly support the right to bear arms," McLennan said.
On the topic of education, McLennan suggested that districts consider some consolidation of administration such as sharing superintendents. She also lamented the state's unfunded mandates on school districts.
She said state employees she knows work hard for their salary and a strike by them would "cripple this state."
Johnston, a Swanville dairy farmer, cited his experience of lobbying state lawmakers and pushing for a stronger agriculture economy. He said he was pro-gun, pro-life and a supporter of providing help to nursing homes so they can pay a living wage.
Responding to a question about his DFL roots, Johnston said the Democrats "were more for the average people."
He told of visiting an animal birthing center at the state fair and being amazed at the number of adults who had never seen a cow have a calf.
Nagel, rural Little Falls, works in human resources for a St. Cloud firm, she has been Pike Creek Township clerk for 10 years.
She pledged to stand for pro-life causes and the interests of rural Minnesota. She noted the many Twin Cities residents who visited central Minnesota during the Labor Day holiday and used area roads.
"When it comes time to issue funds, they forget about us," she said.
She noted that wages and good jobs were concerns of the 18-30-year-old voters.
"We have minimum wage but we don't have a livable wage in this area," Nagel said.
Nagel called for energy polices that encouraged the use of ethanol, a restructuring of land valuations so farmers are treated fairly, a reinvestment in education and businesses. She said Gov. Ventura's plan to call up the National Guard to replace state workers if they strike was belittling to state employees.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.