Herald Journal - Voters' Guide '08

Three candidates vie for 6th Congressional District

The seat served by Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Woodbury) is up. Two candidates, Democrat Elwin (El) Tinklenberg and Independent Bob Anderson are challenging Bachmann in that race.

The 6th Congressional District consists of a huge chunk of area that is northwest of the Twin Cities. At its southern end, it includes Wright County.

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

Michele Bachmann ( www.michelebachmann.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?

Last year, I visited our troops in Iraq. Above all else, we must ensure they always know they are supported and appreciated. They deserve the best in training, equipment, and resources. From improved GI Bill education benefits to top-notch healthcare and readjustment services, we must not only care for our citizen-soldiers in the theater of war, but also when they return. While in Iraq, I talked with General Petraeus. I share his goal of bringing our troops home with honor, of fulfilling their military mission, and of ensuring that the Iraq we leave behind is not a terrorist breeding ground

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

The US Tax Code is one of the biggest obstacles to making health care coverage more affordable and accessible. It favors coverage through employers, especially big companies that can afford to offer it as a benefit. This puts the self-employed, those who work for small business, and even many who work for larger businesses that are cutting costs by cutting benefits at a serious disadvantage. I support options like Health Savings Accounts and Association Health Plans to help provide access to affordable health care to more Americans. I also authored bipartisan legislation, the Health Care Freedom of Choice Act, that would provide 100 percent deductibility for all medical care, dental care, long-term care, and other costs – including insurance premiums.

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

No Child Left Behind led the nation further down the wrong road, removing parents and teachers even farther from the classroom and their children’s education. I support legislation that would re-write No Child Left Behind to return educational authority and accountability to the teachers, parents, and local school boards that know our children’s educational needs.

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.

We must pursue an All-of-the-Above Energy Strategy to reduce the cost of gas, home heating, and more and to put America on the path to energy independence. All-of-the-Above means that we should pursue domestic energy resources, like the billions of barrels of oil in ANWR, the vast reserves of oil and natural gas off-shore on the Outer Continental Shelf, and the shale oil resources of the Mountain West. All-of-the-Above also means pursuing alternative energy sources, such as clean, safe nuclear power such as we get from our very own plant in Monticello; as well as renewables like biomass, wind, solar, and hydrogen. All-of-the-Above means promoting conservation, too. I authored legislation that would cut the red tape that binds domestic energy production, as well as legislation to put an end to frivolous lawsuits that block energy exploration. I also authored legislation to tap into American shale oil energy and filed the discharge petition to free up the oil reserves in ANWR. And, I authored the bill that would incentivize research and development of renewable energy technologies.

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

Farming plays such an important part in Minnesota’s economy and is such a rich part of our culture and heritage. I had high hopes for the 2008 farm bill, and I was sorely disappointed by the bill that came before Congress earlier this year. Simply put, it didn’t provide a safety net for family farmers and it didn’t address the skyrocketing costs of farm products that struggling families experience every day (including farm families). The bill was business as usual, Washington-style. After more than a year of negotiations, this bill was heralded as the best compromise that Congress could come to. But with commodity prices through the roof, this bill rejected the opportunity to make a difference and instead subsidized millionaires making up to $2.5 million. Taxpayer dollars are not Monopoly money, yet this $300 billion bill treated them as such, and at a time when middle-class families are feeling the pinch at the pump and the grocery store and the college admission office I found that simply unconscionable. I have too much respect for those who live by the land to support a bill which does nothing to reform our farm programs but soaks the American taxpayers – both those who farm for a living and those who do not – with a deluge of unrelated pork and wasteful spending.

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

Congress should pursue free and fair trade agreements that allow American businesses and farmers to compete overseas. We have the best products, but they need a level playing field overseas. Congress also must ensure that our own tax, regulatory, and labor laws do not put American companies at a disadvantage with their overseas competitors. For instance, I oppose legislation such as the Card Check, that would eliminate the secret ballot in labor negotiations in the workplace, and I support tort reform to end the practice of outrageous and often unending frivolous lawsuits. In addition, Congress must look to the debt that it is placing on American taxpayers, both of today and tomorrow. Projected entitlement liabilities already place a $455,000 debt on each American household. The financial services bailouts under consideration now could add another $1 trillion to the deficits that taxpayers will burden. Spending on a borrowed dime devalues our dollar and puts American companies and farmers at a disadvantage in a global market.

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

First and foremost, Congress must seal our borders, cutting off incentives that entice illegal immigrants over the border, and Congress must give American business the resources to ensure they are not employing illegal immigrants. If immigration reform of the 1980s taught us anything it is that “comprehensive” immigration reform is meaningless if nothing is done to turn off the spigot of benefits and incentives that invite immigrants to break the law. I also believe that the federal government should not rely upon private business to enforce the laws and that a top priority must be to enforce laws already on the books. And, Congress must continue to support and promote successful immigration programs such as the 287(g) program through which federal, state, and local law enforcement work together to enforce immigration laws.

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

The biggest question facing the American people right now revolves around the trillion-dollar-plus financial services bailouts, which all have their roots in risky policy and business decisions in the housing market. Homeownership is a foundation of the American Dream, and it is now being unreasonably threatened for millions of Americans who are struggling to make ends meet and make mortgage payments on time. For years, Congress allowed the government sponsored entities (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to grow outlandishly large; Congress papered over their accounting and financial scandals; Congress ignored incontrovertible signs that they were undercapitalized; and Congress put off enacting real regulatory reform to provide serious oversight of these mortgage giants. I was proud to be amongst those pushing for better reform and oversight during my tenure in Congress. Regrettably, Congress waited too long and the implicit taxpayer guarantee of the risky decisions that the GSEs were making was forced to become an explicit taxpayer guarantee. Now, American taxpayers are on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars to bail them out as well as many Wall Street giants that were long assumed too big to fail. Congress should promote home ownership, but not at the expense of homeowners.

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?

Fair and balanced reporting is an important part of our democratic heritage and the modern political process and journalists should be commended and protected in the honest pursuit of their work. I was pleased to support bipartisan legislation, the Free Flow of Information Act, that would offer protection of sources and documents to journalists (including professional bloggers) caught up in federal investigations.

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

I went to Congress to reform the ways of Washington and to protect your family budget. My top priorities are: (1) Cutting taxes, like the marriage penalty, death tax, alternative minimum tax (AMT), and capital gains tax rates. Middle-class American families are being squeezed by high taxes, high energy prices, soaring costs of living, tuition hikes, and now a soft housing market and credit crunch. They deserve some relief so they can spend more money on their family priorities. And small businesses are the engine of our economy. When they have more money to reinvest in their employees and their business plans, we all prosper. (2) Cutting wasteful government spending. Congress spends your tax dollars like Monopoly money, and hardworking taxpayers deserve more respect than that. I support reforming corrupt earmarking practices, making the federal budget transparent and comprehensible, and instituting cost-saving measures like the line-item veto to ensure that Congress is accountable to the taxpayers.

(3) Reforming the ways of Washington. Congress needs to roll up its shirtsleeves to make tough decisions on big issues like entitlement reform, spending cuts, and energy solutions. Instead, it piddles away its time on partisan posturing, leaving the issues that impact your lives and your children’s lives virtually untouched.

Briefly summarize your personal background and qualifications.

I was elected to represent Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District in 2006, making me the first Republican woman to represent Minnesota in the House of Representatives. Prior to my election, I practiced as a federal tax attorney, and as a state senator for six years, where I authored the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

My strong record of supporting tax relief for Minnesotans has earned praise from the US Chamber of Commerce, National Taxpayers Union, Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, and other advocates for pro-growth economic policies and responsible government budgets. In Congress, I serve on the House Financial Services Committee, with jurisdiction over housing and real estate issues and banking and the financial services industry.

I grew up in Anoka, graduating from Anoka public high school in 1974. My husband, Marcus, and I successfully started a small business and own and operate two mental health clinics, employing about 40 area residents. I graduated from Winona State University and later received my law degree from the Coburn School of Law and a degree in tax law from the College of William and Mary’s Marshall-Wythe School of Law. Marcus and I are raising our family of five children in Washington County. In addition, we’ve opened our home to 23 foster children over the years.

Elwyn (El) Tinklenberg ( www.tinklenberg08.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?

• I will strongly support a responsible timetable for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. This timetable, to be developed in consultation with our military leaders, must balance the safety of our troops with our moral commitment to Iraq’s stability.

• I will encourage the establishment of a regional peace-keeping force, composed chiefly of troops from the region, to ensure the security of the Middle East.

• As part of a Democratic Congress, I will advocate for an increase in diplomatic efforts to work toward the long-term stability of the Middle East.

I will vote to end the Bush administration’s freeze on diplomatic postings by the State Department, and I will support shifting substantial resources from the Department of Defense to the State Department to expand long-term diplomatic efforts.

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

• We must put aside our political differences and begin the transition to universal healthcare by expanding SCHIP to cover every American child. It is our moral obligation to make sure our children have access to care.

• I will support the continued availability of private insurance options alongside a competitively priced public option, while insisting that no insurance company be allowed to deny coverage due to pre-existing health conditions.

• I will support long-term care benefits for the elderly.

• I will vote to allow direct price negotiations between the federal government and pharmaceutical manufacturers.

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

NCLB is punitive in its approach and therefore not effectively achieving its intention of improving the public education in challenged schools.

It is fatally flawed because it is an unfunded mandate that takes money directly off the top of school budgets and inhibits their ability to provide programs and services necessary for achieving excellence.

I think it should be revisited by a committee of teachers and administrators, and the program should be redesigned to reward good teachers and progress, rather than to punish failings of economic and socioeconomic origin.

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.

• Drill domestically for more oil. No matter how much more drilling we do, the United States still has only 3 percent of the world’s total supply of oil, and we consume 25 percent of the world’s daily supply. Domestic drilling is only one part of a comprehensive solution. Drilling in ANWR is not worth the risk, but a good place to start would be the 68 million acres the oil companies have leased but have not yet drilled.

• Negotiate limited additional exploration and drilling rights. Any new drilling permits should be approved on a case-by-case basis with oil companies required to post a substantial bond to guarantee site restoration and/or cleanup of any spills related to the drilling.

• Provide incentives for bio-fuel, wind, solar , nuclear and clean coal energy development. American innovation is our key to an independent energy future. While there is general agreement in Congress that economic incentives are necessary to develop alternative energy technologies, the parties quickly split when the discussion turns to paying for them. We can start by eliminating the Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans and using the money to pay for these incentives.

• Increase miles-per-gallon standards for cars. While domestic automobile manufacturers are beginning to respond to market forces by building smaller, lighter, and alternative fuel cars and trucks, an incremental increase in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards would assure that this trend continues.

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

Farmers in Minnesota are faced with many challenges in today’s agricultural market. From land use and taxes to onerous regulations, we should be concerned about the future of our agricultural community and economy. As someone who grew up on a farm, I know firsthand the importance of supporting farmers and rural economies.

• Representative Peterson (MN-7) ensured that the most recent Farm Bill represented the diverse needs of America’s agriculture and we’re fortunate to have the chair of the Agriculture Committee as a member of our delegation. While improvements could be made on the bill, it represents a compromise that was supported by an overwhelmingly bi-partisan vote in Congress.

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

• Research and development of new, green technologies, can ensure that not only are we putting Americans back to work in good jobs, but we are creating a product that cannot be outsourced or shipped overseas, and we can instead be a leading exporter of these new technologies.

• We need to be creating good jobs here in the US. I will advocate for desperately needed investments in education and infrastructure such as Rep. Jim Oberstar’s plan to dedicate $15 billion of the economic stimulus to infrastructure improvements which will create 712,000 new construction jobs and $93 billion in new economic activity. These kind of initiatives could generate much-needed, short-term, job-based stimulus to the economy, as well as improve long-term economic opportunity.

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

• Prosecute employers who recruit and hire illegal workers.

• Enhance port and border security to monitor cargo and shipping more effectively.

• Provide a pathway to legal status for immigrants who work, pay taxes, and contribute to our economy.

• Reform trade and labor policies to stop the leak of American jobs overseas.

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

Owning a home is the cornerstone of the American dream. Yet the number of “For Sale” signs on our streets point to a serious crisis in the housing market. With assessed home values on the rise and appraised values on the decline, there is less security in what, for many of us, is our single biggest financial investment. In Congress, I will fight to:

 • Freeze mortgage rates for responsible homeowners whose payments are about to skyrocket due to adjustable rate mortgages.

• Pursue and prosecute the loan sharks who are taking advantage of homebuyers.

• Ensure that loan practices are regulated effectively, and that Minnesotans have access to clear, honest information when purchasing a home.

• Preserve the mortgage interest income tax deduction.

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. In order to have a free press and the most unbiased media possible, it is imperative that the rights of journalists are preserved. There is an increasing threat to the objectivity of media outlets, from single-ownership and monopolies that are emerging, and the people of the US and the world are entitled to free press and accurate news.

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

I am running because I am deeply concerned that divisive politics is undermining our ability to deal with the serious problems we face and is threatening our fundamental commitment to a “common good.”

We’re living in a country where our basic infrastructure is failing us, where our commutes are taking us away from our families, our mortgage payments, gas prices, children’s college tuition and our healthcare costs increase, but not our wages. It’s getting harder to find the good news in the papers.

We can do better. We can reinvest in America, work together, and make life better for everyone.

Briefly summarize your personal background and qualifications.

Background/education: Grew up in Pease, Minnesota

Undergraduate degree – University of Minnesota, Duluth

Seminary at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL

Finished at United Theological Seminary, New Brighton, MN.

Career:

• United Methodist minister from 1977 to 1986.

• Blaine City Council member, 1985-87.

• Mayor of the City of Blaine, 1987-96 (retired).

• Governor Ventura’s cabinet as the Minnesota Commissioner of Transportation from 1999 to 2002.

• Charged with managing the day-to-day operations of the department’s 5,500 employees and $2 billion annual budget.

• Worked directly with legislature to secure funding for the state’s first light rail, the development of a regional commuter plan, and a (short-term) doubling of the state transportation budget.

• 2003 – served on the board of directors for the American Public Transportation Association.

• President of The Tinklenberg Group, a consulting firm that specializes in transportation and public/private partnerships.

Personal: Lives in Blaine with his wife, Terri. He is the father of three children, the stepfather of three children, and has seven grandchildren.

Bob Anderson ( www.bobandersonforcongress.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?

I feel the levels of troops should be determined by General Petraeus and the Iraqi leadership. I would like to see our involvement end as soon as possible without compromising all of our successes.

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

Individuals should have access and opportunity to affordable plans without discrimination do to pre-existing conditions. Individuals ability to qualify and costs should be the same whether you apply as an individual or under a company sponsored plan.

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

I do not support the No Child Left Behind.

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.

We should use all resources available to us, and that includes ANWR. The people of Alaska support this, and they should know better than the rest of us. I do feel that nuclear should be part of the mix along with wind, and solar.

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

I support parts of it, but as a whole I think it has too much in subsidies.

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

I think we have to be practical in the environmental restrictions we put on companies. We have to be stewards of the land but we have to be realistic, also. We have to reduce health care costs and give companies that offer good plans tax breaks. We need to have fair trade policies so our exports are treated equally with imports.

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

We have to seal the border first. We need to enforce the laws that are already on the books and crack down on companies that are paying less than fair wages.

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

The only role I feel government should play is prosecute mortgage companies and banks that have been involved in unlawful practices. We as individuals must live within our means, and if a loan sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.

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?

To be honest I am not familiar with a shield law. I believe in ethical and transparent reporting. I feel if the material is worth printing and it is accurate, there should be no need for a law. I believe in a free and fair news media.

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

I have never served my country. I love people, and I love to serve, and I think this would be the best fit for me to make a significance in my life and the lives of the people I will represent. I would like to help reform health care with an emphasis on mental health.

Briefly summarize your personal background and qualifications.

I have been working in the private sector for 32 years as an employer and also as an employee alongside fellow working Americans. I have been a successful owner of two small businesses: partnering with two brothers at Anderson Dental Studio, a dental laboratory in Edina, and also owning a coffee and deli shop in Edina called Anderson Brew Crew. I have devoted much of my spare time and energy advocating the Mental Health Parity Bill. I also volunteer in the mental health community at a suicide awareness office and passionately host a local cable access program called “Inside Mental Health Issues.”

I am a resident of Woodbury and a loving, caring father of two adult children. I enjoy sharing my humor, and passion for the issues with family and friends. I am 50 years old, Catholic, working full time as a dental tech and part time as a magazine merchandiser.