Herald Journal - Voters' Guide '08

Two candidates seek to represent US District 7

This year, the 7th District congressional seat being served by Democrat Collin C. Peterson is up, with Republican Glen Menze of Starbuck challenging Peterson.

District 7 encompasses a huge chunk of area that is west of the Twin Cities. At its eastern end, it includes voters in the townships of Winsted, Bergen, Hale and Rich Valley; and the cities of Winsted and Lester Prairie.

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

Collin C. Peterson( www.petersonforcongress.com )

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?

It’s time for US troops to be coming home, and if the president won’t get that process started, then I would support a timetable for withdrawal and an end to the war.  It is clear that the war on terrorism hasn’t been a total success.  Our men and women of the US military have done a great job, but the situation in Iraq remains uncertain and there are numerous problems to deal with.  Going into Afghanistan after “9-11” was the right thing to do, but from there, the administration expanded the war into Iraq without a clearly thought-out plan and without finishing the mission in Afghanistan.  The situation in both countries is difficult and without thoughtful reconsideration of objectives and policies by the next administration, it will be all but impossible for the US to “win” in the traditional sense of the word.  Nonetheless, we have to complete the job.  We need new leadership that pursues achievable objectives and is honest with the American people about how long it will take and what it’s going to cost.  Only through rational military and cooperative diplomatic policies will we be able to defeat terrorism and achieve the safer world we all seek.

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

Universal health care coverage is the right goal and I think we’ll get there eventually, but until that day it is important to be realistic and improve that which can be improved while we develop the political courage and the financing required for universal coverage. A good first step that would help expand access to health care and increase the number of Americans with coverage would be to simply allow individuals and small businesses to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP).  By taking this approach we can make use of an existing system with well-established plans that have delivered quality health care to large numbers of beneficiaries.  Although the Medicare system has made some changes that should help rural health care in general, it is still too soon to tell whether or not the drug discount card will, in the long run, actually help bring down prices for senior citizens.  In the meantime, to assure access to affordable care, government must fully reimburse providers in underserved and rural areas, negotiate prescription drug prices and limit advertising, promote innovative technologies, provide health program price transparency, improve Children’s Health Insurance Programs, allow program flexibility for reaching uninsured populations and provide incentives to small businesses to provide insurance.

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

I voted against the president’s so called No Child Left Behind Act because it amounted to a direct assault by the federal government on Minnesota’s tradition of local control of schools. The federal government should not be telling Minnesotans how to run their schools, and it most certainly should not be setting the standards while short-changing school districts on the amount of money it should be sending to Minnesota to pay for federally mandated education programs.  Many of the rural school district leaders I’ve talked to have told me that the state government is creating additional problems for rural schools through their efforts to implement this seriously flawed edict from Washington.  The bill should be repealed, but if we can’t secure enough votes to get that done, at the very least, it should be amended so that rural schools can “opt out.”

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.

The United States must expand domestic oil production and establish a new US energy policy that ends our country’s dependency on foreign energy sources.  There’s no easy way to do this – it will require a national commitment and an “all of the above” approach by government and the private sector.  We must consider every American resource that we have at our disposal – including the oil in ANWR – and pursue all opportunities for development and production.  This means more drilling for oil, more biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel, using biomass to generate power, developing clean coal technologies, expanding wind, solar and nuclear power generating capacity and pursuing research and development of any promising methodology that delivers more energy.  In addition, we must make conservation a regular part of how we live our lives.  We will need greater energy efficiency from anything that uses it, from our homes, to our machines and appliances.  We must end our dependency on foreign sources – and when we do this, the future will be much brighter for everyone.  I believe that we have the capacity to accomplish this in a manner that is consistent with our commitment to the environment and to future generations.  If we do it right, American consumers will spend some of their money on energy from the Midwest and not the Middle East.  We need to get this right so that we can stop fighting wars over oil and stop buying oil from people who hate us.

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

As Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, I spent many hours listening to Minnesota farmers and agriculture interests in order to write and negotiate a Farm Bill – The Food Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 – that makes historic investments in programs that help Minnesota farmers and ranchers do what they do best – provide high quality food and energy for our nation and the world.  The new Farm Bill is a forward-looking framework that rebalances farm protection by increasing loan rates and target prices for Minnesota crops.  It also has a new permanent disaster program to provide disaster assistance and a new revenue-based counter-cyclical program will further strengthen the safety net options for Minnesota farmers.  The bill includes new investments that will encourage and expand locally grown and organic production in Minnesota and across the nation.  It is also the first Farm Bill to make a significant investment in renewable energy programs, providing $1 billion for new technologies and feedstocks for the renewable energy industry.  Minnesota has led the nation in renewable energy production and use, and the Farm Bill will help the industry continue to grow using new sources.  The impact of rising energy prices is a problem for all of agriculture, and biofuels are just one part of the equation.  High fuel and fertilizer prices are hurting farmers and ranchers nationwide, no matter what they produce.  To address part of the problem that is under the Agriculture Committee’s jurisdiction, we passed the Commodity Markets Transparency and Accountability Act with bipartisan support.  This legislation will increase transparency, improve oversight in commodity markets and limit speculation, ensuring that these markets are operating in best interest of farmers and consumers.  Moving forward, I will continue to work in Congress for an energy policy that utilizes all of the resources our nation can provide – wind, solar, nuclear, oil and clean coal in addition to biofuels.  Minnesota has seen enormous achievements in value-added agriculture.  We need to continue to find ways to promote and expand opportunities that return more of the dollar to our farmers.  Whether it is biofuels, animal agriculture, or locally-grown and organic farming, we need to do everything possible to keep our farms competitive and strong.  On the horizon, I am watching carefully as USDA implements the Farm Bill.  I want to make sure that the new investments and safety net improvements included in the law are put into place correctly so that they help our farmers as we intended.  As Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, I will continue to look for ways to improve the USDA and its program delivery systems to be sure that Minnesota farmers don’t encounter a never-ending mess of red tape and regulatory burdens.  Federal government programs should assist and support farmers doing what they do best – providing the high quality agriculture products that make this country great.

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

Americans have no trouble competing and winning when the rules are fair and the field is level, but for past several decades US trade policy negotiators have given away American jobs to appease the interests of International corporations in pursuit of cheap foreign labor and raw materials.  US companies have told us that they had to have these trade agreements in order to compete effectively, but what’s good for the corporation is not always good for American workers or farmers.  I think it’s pretty clear that over the past decade or so this approach has been bad for the majority of Americans.  Real wages have stagnated and jobs in our formerly robust manufacturing sectors have disappeared.  I think US companies should have fair access to foreign markets and that if they do they should be able to compete effectively – but this access should not be coming at the expense of American workers and their families.

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

I oppose amnesty for illegal aliens.  In Congress I voted for the “get tough” immigration bill to secure our borders, increase the number of security personnel and build an extended border fence along our southern borders.  We need to give law enforcement officials more resources with which to capture and deport people who are in this country illegally.  This is not a comprehensive answer to our security and immigration problems, but it’s a step in the right direction.  We also must develop a tamper-proof biometrically encoded Social Security identification card and make it against the law to hire anyone without one.  With this kind of technology in place we can create secure temporary worker programs for people with special skills and agricultural workers and hold employers accountable in they knowingly hire undocumented illegal alien workers.

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

As painful as it may be to the individuals involved, a bank foreclosure is a private sector action between private parties who have made financial commitments to one another.  The American federal government “sets the rules” for many kinds of business transactions and through the various regulatory agencies that oversee the banking and financial systems it should guarantee that the rules are being followed and fairly applied.  To that end both the Administration and Congress should conduct regular oversight of these financial institutions so as to guarantee that the system is functioning in the best interests of our citizens – consumers – and that the rules remain fair and rational and that they are being followed by all parties.  When necessary, Congress and the Administration should give the courts the authority to resolve instances where the rules have not been followed.  When there has been unfair manipulation of the system (like what has gotten large numbers of people throughout the nation into the sub-prime lending mess) the government should carefully review and evaluate the circumstances before stepping into the middle of any private sector business transactions.  But while federal, state and locals government entities and any number of private sector entities (including not for profit organizations) work to educate consumers and help them avoid bad financial decisions, at the end of the day, it’s still a free country and people are still free to make bad decisions with their money. 

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?

Yes, I support enactment of a strong federal shield law to protect journalists and their sources from the coercive power of the government.  Freedom of the press is an essential principle of American government enshrined in the US Constitution.  It is at the very foundation of our nation and vital to the free exchange of ideas and information we all expect in the open and free society of the United States of America.

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

It’s an honor to be the 7th District’s Congressman, and I believe my experience and my position as Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture can benefit farmers, veterans, children, senior citizens, and communities large and small.  There will be a lot of work to do in the upcoming Congress, not the least of which will be to oversee proper implementation of the new Farm Bill by the next Administration so that all the good programs it contains will effectively deliver the assistance to rural America that we intended.  In addition, the USDA – where computer systems are out of date and there is overlap and duplication of services – needs to be totally reorganized and I intend to start that process as soon as possible next year.   We’ll have a new president, but our budget situation will restrict policy choices.  Eight years of exploding deficits, increased spending, war, and an energy crisis have us in a squeeze. With time, fiscal discipline and adherence to “pay-go” rules (which delivered balance and surpluses in the 1990s) we’ll restore balanced budgets.   I will work to promote an “all of the above” energy policy for the US, and work to strengthen the US economy by investing in our own infrastructure and expanding competitive opportunities for our own workforce.  I also think we need to end this Administration’s damaging trade negotiations process that gave us the anti-sugar CAFTA treaty and threatens more damage at the DOHA talks.  My other priorities include controlling federal spending and restoring balanced budgets through strict “pay-go” rules, pursuing a rational and affordable expansion of Health Care coverage for all Americans, and getting our troops home from Iraq.

Briefly summarize your personal background and qualifications.

As 7th District Congressman, I have been a consistent and effective advocate for rural Minnesota.  I grew up on a farm in Baker, Minnesota, graduated from Moorhead State, had my own small business (as a CPA) and served in the Minnesota Senate before being elected to Congress.  I’m an advocate for rural development and agriculture, public education, veterans, affordable, quality rural health care and fiscal discipline.   As chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, I helped write the new Farm Bill and in that process, I made sure that the interests and concerns of Minnesota’s farmers and rural communities were included.  If the voters see fit to have me represent them for another term I will continue to serve as the Agriculture Committee’s chairman, where I will be able to fight effectively against any new Administration efforts to eliminate agriculture programs and federal funding to assist rural areas.

Glen Menze ( www.glenmenze.com )

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?

We should leave in the manner and time in which the Iraq government requests. Troop strength should be set by Iraq government.

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

I support the goal of making health care coverage accessible and affordable to all Americans by introducing reforms to cost and delivery systems. I do not support a government take-over of health care

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

The idea that all children should receive an equal chance at a basic education is right. No Child Left Behind was a good start, but should be studied and reviewed and modified so we know we are offering the best education for the investment we are making.

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.

To settle the markets and to show we are serious about energy independence, the coastal plain area of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge should be open for exploration. Nuclear plants must be part of the energy mix if we are to increase energy to drive our economy and reduce carbon emissions.

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

The farm bill should have restricted payments to farmers who make less than $200,000 a year. It also should have moved us to using more risk management tools so farmers could include the tools they feel were needed to run their farms. I would have voted against it on the Ag committee, but would have voted for it in the comprise bill.

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

Free and fair trade needs to be a top priority for a new administration. Assistance for smaller businesses in learning the requirement in each country should be available.

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

First, we need to secure our borders so we know who is coming to America, for security reasons. Next, we should work to expel anyone here who has committed a crime. For those who are here working and have a good record, we need an orderly method of allowing them to become citizens based on their countries of origin.

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

If fraud was involved or someone of diminished capacity was taken advantage of, we may have a responsibility to provide relief. The easing of credit standards and relaxing of down payment requirements were made by Congress.

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?

If known felons as confidential sources are being protected, I would not support journalist protection. Freedom of the press must be protected, so I support good laws that are clear about what is protected so journalists know how to operate.

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

I want to see Washington reformed by removing the power and influence of lobbyists in law drafting, as well as election contributions. Wasteful spending is eroding the likelihood we will be able to solve our Social Security and Medicare shortfall.

Briefly summarize your personal background and qualifications.

Glen went to elementary and high school in New York Mills, Minnesota. He attended college at Moorhead State University for sociology and business administration. Glen moved to Lakeville, Minnesota, where he worked for Pitney Bowes Corporation as a postal equipment inspector. The ‘80s farm crises brought Glen back to New York Mills, where he worked with the family’s trucking business. Glen also did accounting and business consulting. He worked as a corporate trainer and sales manager for Telnet Inc., a sales and marketing company with over 500 employees.

In 1996, Glen moved to a farm in Starbuck, Minnesota with his five children, where he has continued as an accountant, business consultant, and commercial author for his own firm, GR Menze Services.

Glen ran for Congress in 2000 in the seventh district of Minnesota. He won the primary over the 1998 candidate for Congress, and then lost the general election.

Raising five children alone gives Glen a unique perspective on the cost and struggles of raising a family in today’s economy. Glen is proud of his children – three college graduates, one attending college, one an honor student in high school, and most importantly, all proud and contributing citizens of our great country.