Walz, Hagedorn square off at forum

Published 10:32 am Tuesday, October 4, 2016

By Trey Mewes

The Mankato Free Press

NORTH MANKATO — U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minnesota, and Republican challenger Jim Hagedorn held little back in an at-times contentious election forum at South Central College Monday night.

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Walz, who is seeking his sixth term, faces a 2014 election rematch against Hagedorn, who he defeated 54 to 46 percent.



Hagedorn sought to portray Walz as a Washington insider out-of-touch with southern Minnesota who fully supports liberal ideology and policies Hagedorn believes has failed the U.S. Walz, in turn, touted his record of bipartisan service in Congress and called Hagedorn out for divisive rhetoric and extreme proposals that Walz believes aren’t realistic or workable for the country.

The candidates gave their views on foreign policy, terrorism, health care, agriculture and the economy over an hour and a half.

A Donald Trump supporter, Hagedorn told the audience he was the only candidate who could provide solutions to problems across the country and especially in southern Minnesota.

“I think our country is in serious trouble,” he said. “We face big problems that haven’t been addressed in the last 10, 20 years.”

Tim Walz

Tim Walz

Yet Walz stressed his record of bipartisan work on a variety of agriculture, national security and veterans affairs measures. He also called Hagedorn out for his partisan attacks and spent much of the forum discussing compromise solutions to various issues.

“I won’t apologize for reaching across the aisle to get things done,” Walz said.

That didn’t stop Hagedorn from tying Walz to the Affordable Care Act, nor to issues that have cropped up since MNsure, the state’s health insurance exchange, opened in 2013.

Hagedorn supports repealing the ACA and putting in an interstate insurance exchange, along with tax credits, separate insurance pools for people with pre-existing conditions and another for small businesses. Yet he spent more time discussing problems with the ACA and how they affected Minnesotans.

“The congressman has avoided the issue, run away from the issue, and then he wants to blame the Mayo Clinic and others for his vote,” Hagedorn said.

Walz acknowledged there were issues with the ACA but ultimately supports it as a necessary step to reform health care across the U.S. He pointed out 26 million U.S. residents have gotten insurance under the ACA, while many of those people either wouldn’t have received insurance due to pre-existing conditions or wouldn’t have been able to pay for insurance in the years before the ACA’s passage in 2011.

He also called out Republicans for trying to repeal the ACA without presenting a fully formed solution to replace it. Walz compared the controversy surrounding the ACA to the time Medicare started in the mid-1960s, and pointed out then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan publicly opposed Medicare when Congress created it in much the same way Republicans oppose the ACA now. Reagan later worked as president to reform Medicare.