In front of an audience of about 30 people Monday night at the Hennepin County Library in Crystal, the three candidates seeking the Republican Party’s endorsement to run against Rep. Keith Ellison in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District, debated a wide range of issues.
While all three—Lynne Torgerson, Michael Katch and Chris Fields—agreed on most issues, there were a few where they differed.
All favor a balanced federal budget but none was particularly enthusiastic about a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“An amendment calling for a balanced budget would be too restrictive,” said Katch. “There are times where the federal government needs to borrow money as has been the case in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Fields said he felt lawyers, accountants and lobbyists would find ways to get around it. "However, I think we have to be creative," he said. "One suggestion I have is if the members of Congress can’t balance the budget then they shouldn’t be allowed to run for office again.”
Torgerson said she is opposed to an amendment but said “we have to cut spending, and we should be able to balance the budget through our own efforts.”
Torgerson also called for more emphasis on the home and family, saying that people need to learn to be more self-sufficient when it comes to getting an education and a job and not rely so heavily on the government.
“We need to stop discouraging work,” Katch added. “Government should provide only temporary help and then have people become self-sufficient.”
Fields said government cannot fix the economy.
“We need a growing economy to put more liquidity into the system. While there is this trend to attack the rich, I believe they are better at using capital then the government,” he said.
All three took various positions relative to the Constitution. They all agreed that it must be followed strictly, they also acknowledged that the document is a set of guidelines. As to the constitutionality of entitlement programs, none of the three suggested that is an issue.
They all support maintaining programs such as Social Security, but also that it and other entitlement programs need fixing and modification right away.
“Right now, these programs are not sustainable,” Fields added.
He also suggested that it should be determined if the very wealthy even need to benefit from entitlement programs.
Katch favors repealing the Patriot Act while Torgerson is in favor of maintaining it. Fields said provisions need to be eliminated, but did not elaborate.
The matter of energy resulted in somewhat separate positions.
Torgerson wants to limit drilling in certain areas like ANWR, but said “the United States needs to become a world energy leader.”
Fields says entrepreneurs and people with ideas should be leading the efforts to solve the country’s energy problems.
“There is a way to safely extract oil and natural gas,” he added.
Katch kept his energy position more local said the hydro-electrical potential of places like the Mississippi River need to be used not just to create electricity but also to attract new business to the area.