Herald Journal - Voters' Guide '08

Two seek to represent 2nd Congressional District

On the November ballot, the seat being served by Republican John Kline in the 2nd Congressional District is up, with Kline, of Lakeville, running again, opposed by Democrat Steve Sarvi of Eagan.

Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District spans the width of the entire southern metro area and contains all of Carver, Scott, LeSueur, Goodhue, and Rice counties.

The following questions and answers were supplied through the Minnesota Newspaper Association.

John Kline ( www.klineforcongress.org )

Terrorism: Should the United States maintain its current military strength in Iraq, or do you support a specific timetable for withdrawal of troops? If you support a specific timetable, what is it? Would you vote to end the war in Iraq?

I am proud of the men and women of our armed services and their progress in reducing violence and stabilizing the ground situation in Iraq. I am particularly pleased the United States has been able to reduce troop strength and anticipate continued reductions. I believe my colleagues share my enthusiastic esteem for these individuals and the service they provide. As we move forward, we must carefully weigh the strategies put forth by the commanders who lead our brave soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen. Decisions about troop strengths must be based on conditions in Iraq, which are much improved in 2008.

Health care: Do you support universal health care coverage? Be specific in your reasons.

All Americans deserve access to affordable, high-quality care. To make this a reality, our current health care system needs to change. Ultimately, we must decide between a system that enables patients and doctors to make decisions about their care and the undesirable alternative of a government-run system that provides limited – if any – choice for individuals. I support a health care approach that harnesses the power of the marketplace to provide Americans with more and better health insurance choices and reduce the number of Americans who have been unable to find affordable coverage.

Education: Do you support or oppose the No Child Left Behind Act? Can it be strengthened, or should it be scrapped?

The No Child Left Behind Act demonstrates the limitations of writing federal education policy that meets the needs of all students. This overly restrictive policy limits innovation in the classroom and imposes financial and administrative requirements that place a significant burden on schools and localities – without providing the resources necessary to meet the standards. While I was not serving in Congress when the bill became law, I did my part to address the shortcomings of the legislation. As you may know, despite numerous hearings and proposed changes, the bill still falls short of its goals of ensuring every child receives a high quality education. Accordingly, I co-sponsored the A-Plus Act, which would provide states the option of withdrawing from federal education programs while maintaining their full share of federal funding and assuming full responsibility for the educational needs of students.

Energy: Should the United States allow additional oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? Should additional nuclear plants be part of the energy mix in this country? Please explain.

Rapidly rising energy costs are generating corresponding increases in the price of food and other basic essentials for families across America. Our nation needs a diversified, “all of the above” energy policy, such as the American Energy Act. This bill – of which I am a proud co-sponsor – would increase the supply of American-made energy – including expanding access to domestic resources in the Outer Continental Shelf and ANWR, improve conservation and efficiency, and promote new and expanding energy technologies – such as nuclear – to help lower the price at the pump and end America’s increasingly costly and dangerous dependence on foreign sources of energy.

Agriculture: Do you support the farm bill passed by the 2008 Congress? Why or why not?

While it was far from perfect, I felt it was important to support and help override the president’s veto of the Farm Bill that became law this spring. Without action, we risked reverting to the law written in 1949 – which would be a considerable disservice to our nation’s farmers. Instead, the bill we passed includes real reforms to address the critical needs of our farmers while making investments in agriculture research and conservation programs.

Job creation: What policies do you support so US companies can compete effectively in overseas markets?

In a diverse economy, a results-oriented job training system can effectively serve job seekers and workers in need of retraining. Last year, the Workforce Investment Improvement Act was introduced to build on past reforms and improve programs and services under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) administered through the nation’s one-stop training center system. I am a co-sponsor of this bill that will strengthen coordinating infrastructure, eliminate duplication, enhance the role of employers, and increase state and local flexibility to better serve our nation’s workers. Together, these reforms will ensure the nation’s workforce development system can respond quickly and effectively to the changing needs of job seekers.

In addition, for US businesses to compete globally, we must bring down foreign barriers to our exports. Free trade equalizes the playing field for our workers and industry and expands opportunities for American businesses.

Immigration: What are your priorities in any immigration reform legislation?

America is a nation of immigrants. Our grandparents and great-grandparents came to this country legally to work hard, learn English, assimilate to the culture, and make contributions to this great nation. We are also a nation of laws, and we must enforce our laws. Since I have been elected to Congress, I have been an outspoken advocate of securing our borders and strengthening immigration policies that empower local officials to enforce the laws

Economy: What role, if any, should the federal government play in protecting homeowners against bank foreclosures?

It is important for Congress to develop housing legislation that advances home ownership and strengthens the housing market without placing additional burdens on American taxpayers. In considering the appropriate role for Congress, we must recognize that the “crisis” in the housing market is not universal: while the number of delinquencies and foreclosures has been rising, it does not comprise the majority of Americans. Congress has a responsibility to help those homeowners who are victims, enhance consumer protections, and provide more transparency in the housing market without rewarding reckless behavior. Additionally, Congress must address the systemic problems in the financial services and mortgage markets.

Federal Shield Law: Do you support the enactment of a strong federal shield law to protect journalists‚ confidential sources and unpublished materials? Why or why not?

As the son of a newspaper man, I understand the importance of a free and open press, and I am a strong defender of the First Amendment. But the protections we provide to ensure the men and women of the media can inform the public without fear of recrimination must come with a corresponding responsibility not to disclose information that unnecessarily threatens or makes it more difficult to protect the physical security of Americans. Earlier this year, I joined 397 of my colleagues in voting for the Free Flow of Information Act, which reflects reasonable compromises that address law enforcement and national security concerns while protecting the rights of reporters to safeguard the identity of sources that need to remain confidential.

Priorities: Why are you running for office? What are your personal priorities?

I am seeking a seat in the US House of Representatives because I believe I have demonstrated the steady leadership Minnesota’s 2nd District needs during challenging times. Constituents in Minnesota’s 2nd District consistently tell me they want security – for our nation and our economy. If re-elected, I will maintain strong national security by ensuring our men and women in uniform have the resources they need to keep America safe and our veterans of today and tomorrow receive the benefits they deserve for their service. I will continue my fight for economic security by ending wasteful pork-barrel spending and helping Minnesotans keep more of their hard-earned tax dollars – as well as pursuing pro-growth policies such as expanding American energy to lower costs for families and strengthening retirement security.

Briefly summarize your personal background and qualifications.

Congressman John Kline was elected to represent the suburbs and rural counties south of Minnesota’s Twin Cities (the 2nd District) in the US House of Representatives in 2002, and was re-elected to a third term in 2006. During this time, Congressman Kline has established himself as one of Congress’s foremost experts on defense and veterans issues, a conservative voice on tax and budget policy, and an advocate for education.

As the only active-duty career Marine Corps veteran serving in Congress, Kline has been able to draw from his extensive military experience in his work on the House Armed Services Committee. He also serves on the Education and Labor Committee, where he is the ranking Republican member on the Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee. Additionally, Congressman Kline was appointed by House leadership to serve on the bipartisan House Ethics Committee.

Prior to his Congressional service, Congressman Kline spent several years in Washington during his 25-year career in the US Marine Corps. He distinguished himself as a helicopter pilot and earned the responsibility of flying Marine One, the President’s personal helicopter. Congressman Kline was also hand-picked to serve as a personal military aide to presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Kline’s responsibilities during this period included advising the President and our country’s senior civilian and military leadership and carrying the nuclear “football” – the briefcase containing the nuclear war plans and strike options in case of a national emergency. During his successful career in the Marines, Kline served as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, commanded all Marine aviation forces in Operation Restore Hope in Somalia, and served as the program development officer at Headquarters Marine Corps, where he was responsible for the Program Objective Memorandum – the document used by the US Armed Services to submit budgetary and planning proposals. He retired from the Marine Corps with the rank of colonel.

 Born in Allentown, Penn. Sept. 6, 1947, Congressman Kline earned his undergraduate degree in biology from Rice University in 1969, and earned his master’s degree in public administration from Shippensburg University in 1988. John Kline and his wife, Vicky live in Lakeville. Kline is especially proud of his two children and four grandchildren. His son is a helicopter pilot in the Army, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Steve Sarvi ( www.stevesarvi.org )

Terrorism: Should the United States maintain its current military strength in Iraq, or do you support a specific timetable for withdrawal of troops? If you support a specific timetable, what is it? Would you vote to end the war in Iraq?

Terrorism is a defining issue of the new millennium. We need to fight it with a stronger, more agile military – but we also need to eliminate the circumstances that give rise to it. Countries that frequently produce terrorists share common traits: deep economic disparities, a pervasive sense of hopelessness and a widespread belief that the West only values them for their natural resources. A Marshall Plan-style investment in these parts of the world, shifting from a focus on armies to a focus on people, would reduce poverty, fear and despair – leaving terror leaders’ radical messages to fall on deaf ears.

But switching gears: It’s interesting that a question titled “terrorism” immediately asks about Iraq. The terrorists who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001, were not from Iraq. Terrorist activity increased in Iraq after we invaded.

I spent 16 months in Iraq. During my tour, I met with many village elders and sheiks who believe we’ll never leave. I believe the only way to effect the changes in political will that are necessary to bring peace and prosperity to Iraq is to begin withdrawing our troops. And while we should begin withdrawing now, we must plan and act carefully. I do not support a specific timetable. We owe Iraqi families, who have suffered much, an orderly withdrawal, not more chaos.

Health care: Do you support universal health care coverage? Be specific in your reasons.

Health care should not be a luxury. High quality, essential health care is a right we must guarantee, and American citizens should not face bankruptcy because they get sick.

Unfortunately, President Bush and my opponent, Rep. John Kline, seem to be fine with the status quo, in which more than 40 million Americans see the emergency room – the only place where care cannot legally be denied – as their primary source of care. Beyond the uninsured are tens of millions more people who have insurance that keeps costing more and covering less.

In defending his vote against expanding children’s health insurance, John Kline said that we should avoid “reckless funding schemes” to bring about affordable health care. But continuing to rely on emergency care adds unnecessary expense that is borne by all of us – and by any measure, that is a reckless funding scheme.

Law- and policy-makers who are truly interested in saving Americans money on healthcare should be first in line to bring about meaningful change. It is fiscally irresponsible to make timely treatment and prevention less affordable for those who most benefit from it: children and those with chronic health conditions. That is what makes Congressman Kline’s position against expanding affordable health care to more kids so puzzling. Every dollar spent on preventive care and early intervention is paid back many times over through fewer days missed at work or school, gains in productivity and less expensive treatment. The old adage rings true: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Education: Do you support or oppose the No Child Left Behind Act? Can it be strengthened, or should it be scrapped?

Much of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) should be left behind. I don’t have a problem with testing; I do have a problem with kids being taught only to take tests. Kids learn to the best of their ability when they have an ample supply of professional educators who are recognized for their training and talent.

I support:

• More local authority. The federal government should let districts have more say about the tests used to measure students’ progress so that those tests can be more helpful to teachers trying to make that progress happen.

• Adequate funding. The funding for carrying out NCLB has been irresponsibly low. Unfunded federal mandates like NCLB divert the resources teachers need and force local property taxpayers to pay the price, force schools to operate from referendum to referendum or put districts in the red, forcing serious cuts in academic programs.

• Rewards for innovation. Minnesota is responsible for some of the premiere education innovations of the past century. Rather than merely punishing schools for “failing,” our government should reward schools for developing programs that enhance learning.

• Promotion of better teaching. It doesn’t matter how many times you test a child on something they don’t know. Tests don’t teach. Schools should be places where teaching and learning thrive through appropriate teacher-to-student ratios, continuous teacher training on best practices and frequent peer review.

• Better measurement of results. We should track individual student progress, not year-group progress.

Energy: Should the United States allow additional oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? Should additional nuclear plants be part of the energy mix in this country? Please explain.

As even John McCain has said, ANWR is a refuge. It should be off-limits for drilling.

There are currently 68 million acres of land under federal lease by oil and gas companies that are ripe for drilling. Let’s drill there first.

Nuclear should be part of the mix as long as we solve two key issues: waste storage and waste transport. Many people are in favor of nuclear power until we start talking about putting plants near their homes. If we’re in this, we’re in it together – we can’t always be trying to push the consequences of our energy choices into someone else’s back yard. Fortunately, since the 1970s much progress has been made on nuclear power, with Europeans using new-style reactors that are much safer than those that have been in use in the US.

There also are many other forms of energy we need to be exploring and developing: wind, solar, and biomass among them. But to fully explore and make these options real, we need to make smart choices with our money. Oil companies earning record profits do not need government subsidies – but today they’re receiving some $18 billion of them. This money should be reinvested in alternative energy research and development.

Agriculture: Do you support the farm bill passed by the 2008 Congress? Why or why not?

The 2008 Farm Bill plots out a healthy future not just for farmers, but for all of us. A great deal of hard work and negotiation went into arriving at the legislation. I’m particularly pleased that it recognized the importance of sustainable agriculture, which is crucial to Minnesota’s economy and farming future. I hope that down the line, we’ll see further progress for small and family farmers, but this year’s bill represented real progress.

Job creation: What policies do you support so US companies can compete effectively in overseas markets?

Global competitiveness is only going to get more important. I support:

• Taking the burden off our economy that is the war in Iraq by beginning to withdraw our troops.

• Lowering health care costs and increasing quality by spreading costs, cutting the middle man and focusing on prevention. Healthcare costs are one of the chief reasons American business is less competitive overseas.

• Making sure our energy grid can keep up with demand.

• Responsibly fixing our credit crisis so that business can borrow at reasonable rates.

• Making sure our education system is second-to-none. We need to make college more affordable and k-12 classrooms more successful.

• Reducing the deficit and restoring fiscal responsibility to ensure our nation is prepared to meet future challenges.

• Moving towards more balanced trade relations, particularly with countries that own large shares of our debt, such as China and South Korea. It’s hard to have an effective trade policy when countries to which we owe vast amounts of money also have the inside track on trade.

• Investing in our Internet “superhighway” so we keep up with the bandwidth currently available in other countries, such as South Korea and Japan.

Immigration: What are your priorities in any immigration reform legislation?

Our nation has been struggling with immigration for centuries. My priorities are:

• Working with neighboring nations on root causes. Exceptional opportunities in another country – or intolerable conditions at home – drive people to leave their families, risk arrest and go where they know no one and have nothing. We must help eliminate intolerable situations in neighboring nations.

• Strengthening border security. There is no substitute for preventing illegal immigration before it happens. High quality, high-tech options have become available to us in recent years.

• Cracking down on American companies that exploit undocumented workers. The law should be applied equally to all – to employers and workers alike. American workers are denied the opportunity to earn fair wages because businesses illegally hire undocumented immigrants who will work for much less.

• Seeking solutions that are both humane and workable. Traditional US immigration policy values the unification of families, the admission of immigrants with needed skills, the protection of refugees, and the diversity of admissions by country of origin. It’s not this foundation that’s the problem; it’s our system of enforcement that’s broken.

Economy: What role, if any, should the federal government play in protecting homeowners against bank foreclosures?

It’s important for economic and family stability that as many people as possible keep their homes. We need to address both the personal and business ramifications of the boom-and-bust cycle we’re in and want to avoid in the future. We need to provide incentives for lenders to work with owners to put people on payment plans that work for them, which may mean freezing rates at their original level or writing down debt so that people aren’t responsible for more than their houses are currently worth. These things are in lenders’ interest long-term, also. It’s equally important we institute and enforce appropriate but not reactionary regulations to prevent future irresponsible lending.

Federal Shield Law: Do you support the enactment of a strong federal shield law to protect journalists‚ confidential sources and unpublished materials? Why or why not?

I support a federal shield law. Journalists have a special responsibility to remain independent and keep the public informed about stories that sometimes, unfortunately, people in power don’t like seeing in print. Too bad. That’s why the media is referred to as the “fourth estate.”

Priorities: Why are you running for office? What are your personal priorities?

I’m running for office because I believe our nation needs to change course. For too long, Minnesota’s 2nd District has been represented by someone who puts the president, his party and big corporate interests ahead of the people. It’s time we put the people first.

The most important issues in my campaign are:

• Making the economy work for the people again. This issue is inextricably linked to energy, health care and transportation. In all these cases, we have opportunities move forward in ways that will bring down costs and make us safer and healthier.

• Responsibly ending the war in Iraq and making sure our veterans are taken care of.

Briefly summarize your personal background and qualifications.

Residence: Watertown, MN

Birthdate: Jan. 30, 1965

Birthplace: East St. Louis, IL

Family: Wife, Barb; three school-age children

Religion:  Catholic

Work history:

City administrator in Minnesota communities of Lanesboro, Watertown, and Victoria, 1994-2008

Military service: US Army, 1982 – 1992 (includes time in Reserve, ROTC and active duty). Rose to rank of captain. Minnesota Army National Guard 1999 - 2007. Served in Kosovo and Iraq – the latter for 16 months, returning in July of 2007. Honors: Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Minnesota Commendation Medal, Kosovo Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Parachutist Badge, Army Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal

Education: Bachelor of arts, political science, University of Minnesota, 1987

Previous elected offices held: Mayor of Watertown, MN, 2001-2005 (elected three times – 2000, 2002, 2004; stepped down in 2005 to serve in Iraq)