House District 12B candidates Mary Marana and Rep. Steve Wenzel had a hard time finding issues to disagree on at Thursday's public television debate.
The 10-year Baxter City Council member and the Little Falls DFLer agreed on opposition to several matters, including gun control, extension of state health benefits to same-sex partners, direct state subsidies for a stadium for professional sports and abortion.
The Brainerd debate was part of Debates 2000, co-sponsored by Lakeland Public Television and The Brainerd Dispatch.
Marana, 47, said it was time the district was represented by someone with new ideas, who would better represent business interests, taxpayers and reflect the experiences of raising a family.
Wenzel, 53, said he was the only candidate who was a lifelong resident of the district and emphasized that his legislative seniority has benefited the district in the form of millions of dollars of transportation improvements for the Brainerd-Baxter area.
The veteran lawmaker stressed his work in agriculture, education and pro-life legislation. He said he'll work for laws to ban partial birth abortions, to lower the sales tax from 6.5 percent to 6 percent and to eliminate the sick tax or medical provider tax.
Marana said her candidacy was aimed at providing voters with an option for a new voice in St. Paul. She said she wanted to see property taxes overhauled and more tax cuts and rebates.
Wenzel agreed property tax relief was needed but cautioned that some homeowners and farmers could possibly be hurt in such a shift. He opposes the expansion of the state sales tax to food and clothing. He said some estimates predict the next state surplus will be $2 billion.
"Our rate of taxation is too high," Wenzel said noting that lawmakers have spent too much time arguing about how to spend the recent surpluses.
Marana said protection of the environment was an important issue. She praised the DNR's job in protecting natural resources and noted that farmers have been excellent stewards of the land. She wants to see more of the natural resource protection left to local government and noted the efforts Baxter has done with wetland protection.
"Government control gets a little bit zealous sometimes," she said.
Wenzel praised the work of farmers and the environmental efforts of the state soil and water conservation board, calling them the strongest component in environmental protection.
"We have to be sure Minnesota's lakes and waters are protected in the future," he said.
Defending the rights of gun owners was another point of agreement.
"Gun control is not as important to me as crime control," Marana said. "I think we need to work on crime control."
"I am a strong proponent of gun owners' rights, a strong defender of the second amendment (of the U.S. Constitution)," Wenzel said.
Both candidates said they would not support Gov. Jesse Ventura's suggestion to extend state health benefits to same-sex partners. Wenzel noted that siblings who live together are not granted that privilege and Marana said the state needed to help uphold morals.
"I think it would be morally wrong," Wenzel said.
"We need to support our family units," Marana said.
The Baxter council member said that she senses little support in her district for state financing of a professional sports stadium. Wenzel also was opposed to it, although he said one qualification might be a tax-increment financing package that might keep the Twins or Vikings in the state.
On the Profiles of Learning issue, Marana said they should be re-evaluated but if they're in effect they should be applied across the board to all schools.
Wenzel opposes Profiles of Learning, stating it creates too much paperwork for teachers.
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