The League of Women Voters event, moderated by Grant resident Liz Nordling, touched on several topics, though job growth and bolstering the Minnesota economy were common themes throughout. The Republican- and DFL-endorsed candidates for Senate District 53 and House Districts 53A and 53B attended.
Below are the responses from the House District 53A candidates. DFL candidate JoAnn Ward faces off against Republican Pam Cunningham.
House District 53A respresents Precinct 1 and Precinct 8 in Oakdale.
A nurse and school board member, Cunningham said she wants to focus on fiscal responsibility, education and health care reform, and plans to bring a positive voice to the Capitol if elected.
Ward said the Legislature should focus on growing jobs and the economy, and must do so through maintaining a strong public education system and providing affordable health care.
Saying she recently showed ID while giving blood, Cunningham said it’s a “simple” idea, and when she’s out door-knocking residents say they support the measure.
Ward said she will vote no on voter ID. “It’s a solution looking for a problem,” she said.
There aren’t major issues with voter fraud in Minnesota, Ward said.
“It does disenfranchise an enormous number of people,” she said.
Shutting down the government in the event a budget can’t be reached should be “a last resort, not a political tool,” Ward said.
There’s not reason the Legislature shouldn’t be able to address the budget in a timely manner, she said.
“We can work together,” Ward said.
Cunningham, too, said a government shutdown should be a last resort, but sometimes lawmakers must adhere to their principles.
In a depressed economy, the state can't increase taxes, Cunningham said.
The state must support small businesses and allow the market to stimulate job growth, she said.
“Budgets tell a story,” Ward said.
She referenced a meeting with business leaders who said the state should do more to invest in education, creating qualified workers who will get jobs and in turn spend money.
Ward also said the Legislature should reduce taxes on small businesses.
Unions should have to market themselves to employees, Cunningham said, and workers shouldn’t feel that they will lose their jobs if they don’t join.
Unions have benefited the nation in the past, Ward said, and they serve a purpose, especially in larger companies, for groups to speak with one voice.
“Unions provide a balance of power,” she said.
Ward said she will vote no on a measure to define marriage as the union between one man and one woman in the state constitution.
People can certainly have their own thoughts on marriage, “but we don’t need to impose those on other people,” Ward said.
She said gay marriage wouldn’t damage society, and “it’s not a constitutional issue.”
Cunningham said it’s a “personal and private issue,” and supports the right of voters to make that decision rather than the Legislature or a judge.
A District 622 School Board member, Cunningham said she would never vote for another funding shift and said it’s wrong for Minnesota to “balance the budget on the back of its children."
Ward, a former teacher, said Minnesota needs skilled labor and must do more to teach life skills as well as academics.
Ward said she’s a problem solver and would work across the aisle and follow through on ideas and suggestions from constituents.
With her experience in nursing and schools, Cunningham said she has the experience needed, as 80 percent of the state budget is dedicated to health care and education.