The General Election is Tuesday, Nov. 4. We do not have the space or time to give you background information on all the candidates that will be on the ballot, but we thought we could give you background information on the legislative candidates running in our community. In 61A, the incumbent, DFLer Karen Clark, will be facing a challenge from Republican S. Andrew Sheppard. In 62B, there is a three-way race to fill the vacant seat left by the retirement of Neva Walker. Jeff Hayden defeated Harry Grigsby in the Primary Election to represent the DFL in the General. He will be challenged by Farheen Hakeem of the Green Party and Kirsten Lindberg of the Republican Party. In 62A, the incumbent, DFLer Jim Davnie, will be challenged by Republican Dave Shegstad. We asked all the candidates the following questions (Karen Clark, Kirsten Lindberg and Dave Shegstad did not reply):
Why are you running for the State Legislature?
S. Andrew Sheppard: I believe in personal liberty, limited government and fiscal responsibility. I am running because I believe that the Minnesota state government has become excessively large and powerful. As a legislator, I will work to increase local control over things like K-12 education and drug law enforcement.
Jeff Hayden: I’m running for the Minnesota Legislature because I want to provide more affordable housing, jumpstart economic development, strengthen public education and expand transportation that protects our environment. The people of District 61B deserve a progressive, smart and visible leader, and I would be honored to serve them at the Capitol.
Farheen Hakeem: Representative Walker was the strongest advocate for youth and youth policy at the Capitol. I am running to build upon her legacy by utilizing my professional experience with youth. I am also the best candidate to advocate for wind energy, single payer universal healthcare, women’s rights and ending poverty.
Jim Davnie: I am running to continue my work supporting, preserving and building our urban quality of life. That means continuing my focus on education, fair tax policy, supporting strong neighborhoods, and a diverse transportation system.
What do you think are the biggest problems facing the Legislature in the coming session?
Sheppard: We are continuing to see increasingly large state budget deficits. However, raising taxes is not an option in these times of economic uncertainty. It is time to make the hard choices needed to cut back unnecessary programs and wasteful spending.
Hayden: The biggest problem facing the Legislature in 2009 will be the struggling economy brought on by the rampant home foreclosures, increasing food and gas prices, and the growing unemployment rate. The Legislature must also address universal, single payer health insurance and funding to our public schools.
Hakeem: The most important problem that I see in the Legislature is to balance the 2 billion dollar deficit without cutting programs and services to the poor. As your state representative, I would advocate that housing, jobs, youth programming and programs to end poverty are an investment, not an expense.
Davnie: Minnesota’s faltering economy is this year’s No. 1 issue. We have tried ten years of “no new taxes” and disinvestments. In that same time we have moved from a nation-leading economy to higher than the nation unemployment rates, lower business growth, repeated state deficits. It’s time to call an end to the experiment and admit that it has been a failure.
What would you do to pass single payer health care for Minnesota?
Sheppard: While there is certainly a need for health care reform, I do not support any Single Payer Health Care plan. I believe that encouraging more diversity in health care, not less, is the best way to lower costs for all Minnesotans.
Hayden: With skyrocketing health care costs, more families are losing their employer provided coverage and forgoing insurance. This is a travesty because health care is a right, not a privilege. I support legislation that uses the state’s purchasing power to rein in costs and provide universal single-payer insurance to all Minnesotans.
Hakeem: I am willing, of course, to sign on as another author for Minnesota Health Act (HF2522) and work with other state legislators to gain understanding and support. Currently, there are 60 legislators (about 1/3) who are co-authors. I would work strategically to build legislative power for the Minnesota Health Act.
Davnie: We need a vision more radical than just single payer. We need a vision broader than changing health insurance to changing health care with a commitment to prioritizing universal coverage, preventive care, and closing racial gaps in health outcomes. That is my commitment.
How would you change the tax structure in Minnesota?
Sheppard: Minnesota has the fifth highest per-capita taxes in the country. Using New Hampshire as a model, I will work to eliminate the state income tax and to cut back spending accordingly.
Hayden: I would seek to repeal the 1998 permanent tax cuts given to the wealthiest Minnesotans. Those top income earners are the people who have been most protected during this economic downturn, and it is only appropriate that they share in the burden of restoring our state’s finances.
Hakeem: Many people are willing to pay for a better Minnesota. Individuals who can afford to pay more should be stepping up to the plate. We need to change our spending priorities. Investing in education is prudent, not paying for a stadium that has created few jobs, especially residents of 61B.
Davnie: We need to move Minnesota’s tax system in ways that make it more fair, more stable, and more effective.
If you have questions about your legislative district or polling place, please call 311 for voter information.