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This yearís race for Minnesota State Representative for District 31B is between incumbent Greg Davids (R) and Al Hein (D). Davids was first elected to the seat in 1992 and is a Preston insurance agent. Hein is a Mabel area farmer. To find out what their views are the Journal asked each candidate to supply written answers to the following questions.
What do you see as the core issues that affect this district?
Greg Davids: Core issues include: rural education funding; stopping electric deregulation; transportation funding; nursing home funding; agriculture issues; and small business issues.
Al Hein: We have a number of core issues, but in many cases they relate back to one central theme - keeping our communities vital. Core issues include: 1. Education funding disparities; 2. Attracting high-quality jobs to our communities to keep young families here; 3. Stem the slide in state dollars flowing back to our region; 4. Targeting more money for nursing homes, care facilities, and prescription drug programs for our seniors. and 5. Environmental issues - our water supply depends on us all being responsible.
What is your stance on new confinement animal feedlots being built in the karst areas of Southeastern Minnesota?
Hein: First of all let me say I wouldn't be against anything that would help or benefit the family farmer. But super large industrial animal complexes like those indirectly run by large multinational firms (Con-Agra, Cargill, Seaboard, Tyson, Smithfield) don't benefit farmers or communities and don't benefit the environment. The captive supply they generate undercuts a free market price structure. Nor would this be wise environmentally especially in southeastern Minnesota. I believe the state should encourage and reward environmentally friendly farm practices. If the state of Minnesota has sound environmental laws no one should seek to circumvent them.
Davids: My position has not changed. Producers must be able to handle a feedlotís waste in an environmentally safe way. The question should not be how big a feedlot is, but rather, can the waste be disposed of properly?
Governor Ventura has recently announced that he will ask the 2001 legislature to allow same-sex domestic partners the opportunity to receive dependent coverage through the State Employee Group Insurance Program. Will you support such an initiative? Why or why not?
Davids: No, I donít believe the taxpayers of Minnesota should pay for this.
Hein: I don't think so, because I believe in a representative democracy. Would most people support that in our district? I'm not sure; however, if after polling the district and a series of town meetings throughout the district, listening to what to people said it became obvious they agreed with that kind of initiative, then I would support it. We need to bring back town meetings for a way for all of us to communicate with those we elect.
Another proposal of Governor Venturaís is to reduce property taxes by having the state pick up most of local education costs. What position will you take on this? (and) What do you feel is necessary to improve the quality of rural public schools.
Hein: I believe Governor Ventura's proposal is a great idea! Also he said local property taxes would be equalized so districts with unique needs and low capacity to pay for them wouldn't be at a disadvantage. The state mandates the so-called local property tax levy any way, so why not let the state pay for it directly? But we must insist on local control. To improve our schools we need to attract more teachers to the more rural areas, be willing to pay them, keep class sizes small, expand curriculums, and equalize funding. Teachers also need support for maintaining proper classroom discipline. I also believe our students deserve the same funding as other students throughout the state of Minnesota. It's just a basic right.
Davids: My first question is, what tax does the Governor want to raise to replace the lost revenues from the property tax? I also have other questions. If you lose local funding, will you loose local control? I believe our school boards should run our schools, not the Department of Children, Families, and Learning. To improve our local schools we need to continue to fight for equal funding for rural schools. Our rural schools do a wonderful job but deserve equal funding.
Who are the state or national politicians that you feel are leaders of vision, best capable of inspiring and leading the American people into a complex and uncertain future?
Davids: I believe George W. Bush, Rod Grams, Gil Gutneckt and Kenric Scheevel are leaders of vision and are very capable of leading us into the future.
Hein: Unfortunately many political leaders we have spend most of their time working for their respective parties. Few people are brave enough, like Governor Ventura, to say what they think. From the time most are elected they are posturing for the next election. Who do I like? Senator Paul Wellstone- he believes all consumers as well as farmers benefit from a free market. He believes big money buys influence in government and supports a moratorium on all agribusiness mergers. Congressman David Minge has spoken strongly for the rural interests. Representative Doug Peterson of Madison, MN, a farmer and teacher, started the organization called "the right to be rural." He believes areas of Greater Minnesota are entitled to the same quality of life as the more metro areas. We need leaders who will serve as role models for us all. Leaders who will inspire us like John Kennedy once did.
How would you rate Jesse Venturaís performance as governor of Minnesota?
Hein: Generally good. I think that because of him people have taken a new interest in state politics. He speaks plainly and directly. You know where he stands and that's refreshing in politics.
Davids: Although the Governor and I have had some differences, as Chairman of the Commerce Committee, I worked very closely with his administration. I carried and passed into law the commerce departmentís legislative agenda. I also sent a letter to the Governor congratulating him on his fine choice for Commerce Commissioner, Jim Bernstein. Commissioner Bernstein and I have a very good working relationship. If re-elected, I would continue to work with the administration to pass legislation in whatever capacity I would be serving in (as Chairman or ranking Republican).
What influence do you think a third party will have in Minnesota's political future?
Davids: Other than the Governor, third party influence has been minimal. If the Governor runs for re-election, the third party would have a very large influence.
Hein: I think the entire country needs a strong third party. Especially on the national level, the two major parties are so close on some issues they're almost indistinguishable. Maybe if we had a third-party in Minnesota our state government would have been more accountable for all of the new state spending and tax surpluses not being returned. I understand that had all of the tax surpluses been returned to taxpayers the total would have been almost $3,000 per taxpayer. Minnesota is still ranked the 4th most taxed state in 1999. Who is representing the taxpayer here? The competition with a third party would make everyone more accountable.