Walz, Hagedorn testy in their final debate

Published 10:47 am Friday, October 17, 2014

By Josh Moniz

Mankato Free Press

MANKATO — Democratic incumbent Rep. Tim Walz and Republican challenger Jim Hagedorn shared a tense debate Wednesday at South Central College in North Mankato, repeatedly trading blows over the federal health care law, immigration and government’s role in people’s lives. They are both running for Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District.



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Walz, a Mankato resident, emphasized his belief that working toward compromise was the best way to represent the will of the people and complete important legislation. He credited his and other lawmakers’ work toward compromise with the recent passage of the federal Farm Bill and the passage of the STOCK Act.

He spoke about southern Minnesota gaining prestigious programs and businesses through responsible collaboration with government. He said the government’s role is guaranteeing people have a “fair playground.”

Hagedorn, a Blue Earth resident, said he is unashamedly Republican and believes government’s role should be limited. On almost every debate question, he advocated for dealing with a problem through free-market approaches or sending the responsibility to the states. He said the Affordable Care Act, the Dodd-Frank corporate accountability requirements and the pollution rules known as cap and trade hurt southern Minnesota and limit residents’ freedoms. He also mentioned his opposition to closing Guantanamo Bay.



He also said he was a product of southern Minnesota, noting his childhood in the region and his father’s time serving the area in Congress.

The candidates’ fundamental divisions over the role of government echoed throughout the debate. It also fed into their testy exchange when asked how they would address partisanship and gridlock in Congress.

Hagedorn said he disagreed with the premise that partisanship is inherently wrong. He said it is important to make a stand if the other side was pursuing something fundamentally wrong.

Walz reiterated his view that compromise is essential for effective government and building public faith. He said even a bill for curing cancer would be meaningless unless people can work together to get it a committee hearing.

“It’s not about compromising your values. It’s about recognizing you love your country as much as I do. It’s about working together towards something bigger,” Walz said.

Hagedorn responded by criticizing Walz’s premise.

“What’s the result? Just about everything in our country is in trouble,” Hagedorn said.

Walz declined to respond beyond saying he felt Hagedorn’s position “speaks for itself.”

The candidates were combative with the moderators. When asked to imagine eliminating the Farm Bill and then detail what they would prioritize putting back into it, both candidates criticized the premise of the question and instead spoke about Farm Bill issues they considered important.

Both agreed it was good that the bill passed. Hagedorn said regulation from the Affordable Care Act and the EPA were the biggest issues dragging on farmers. Walz reiterated compromise was needed to get the law passed.

The candidates discussed and debated the Affordable Care Act law the most.

Hagedorn repeatedly called for its repeal. He said the law would only lead to rationing of health care and a degrading of the quality of care.

“We had the best health care system in the world. (Walz) voted to trash it,” Hagedorn said. “How many people in this country need to be hurt (by the law) before we can remove it and start over?”

He said free-market solutions should replace it: health care saving accounts, tort reform and competition across state lines. In prior interviews, Hagedorn said he would keep the law’s protections for pre-existing conditions.

Walz said the situation before the law’s passage was unsustainable, noting people faced denial for pre-existing conditions and bankruptcy from medical costs. He asked the audience to think about the families the law had fundamentally helped.

“Nobody was under this impression this was done,” Walz said. “(The law) was just the first step.”

The candidates also frequently talked about immigration.

Hagedorn said he would make securing the U.S. border a main priority, claiming an increased risk of terrorism and crime. He criticized Walz for failing to substantially address the issue and accused the incumbent of supporting amnesty. In prior interviews, he said he based the amnesty claim on Walz’s support of the Dream Act and President Obama’s executive order that allowed select young people brought to the United States illegally by their parents without their consent to avoid deportation.

Walz responded that the prior policy was forcing young adults with good grades to move to countries they have never visited in their lives.

Wednesday’s debate, hosted by South Central College and Greater Mankato Growth, was their last debate. The two candidates will now face off in the Nov. 4 general election.

—Distributed by MCT Information Services