Shilepsky addslife to debate

by Michelle Kibiger

Excluded from an earlier debate between fellow candidates for House District 59B, Reform Party candidate Alan Shilepsky wasted no time attacking his opponents at a final contest Tuesday at Coffman Memorial Union.
His opening statement set the tone for the entire event. “We can’t solve problems of a knowledge society and a global marketplace … if we use the solutions from biblical times or the 1930s New Deal,” Shilepsky said, alluding to Tom Gromacki’s religious beliefs and Rep. Phyllis Kahn’s, DFL-Minneapolis, liberalism.
Tuesday’s debate was the first head-to-head confrontation between all three candidates. Shilepsky participated in a forum held earlier this fall in downtown Minneapolis, which included both Senate and House district candidates, but was excluded from last week’s debate sponsored by the U-DFL and College Republicans.
Candidates had two minutes to answer each of six questions. Each round of responses started with a different candidate; the questions were chosen before the event.
The Minnesota Public Interest Research Group and the Minnesota Student Association sponsored Tuesday’s event. Heather Henderson, who organized the event for MPIRG, said the group included all three candidates so that students would have a more solid base for their choices.
However, only about a dozen students attended the debate. And even though the debate was structured so that the candidates each took turns answering predetermined questions, students saw more attacks than discussion of issues.
The debate began with a question about the University steam plant controversy. Republican candidate and University junior Tom Gromacki said he was concerned about the economic impact of the proposed steam plant renovations; incumbent Rep. Kahn said she opposed the proposed renovations. Shilepsky questioned why candidates were spending so much time on this issue.
“Is this the most important thing facing this University?” Shilepsky said. “Obviously not. But it is one of the main things that your representative is currently spending your time on.”
The debate’s second question, which asked candidates for opinions regarding the controversy surrounding Margaret Sanger at the University, sparked the most contentious discussion among the candidates.
Gromacki, who answered the question first, reiterated his position that the University should not be celebrating a woman whose goal was to create a “race of thoroughbreds.”
Shilepsky said he was shocked by Gromacki’s opinion, adding that society should look up to Sanger and that she was a champion for poor women who had no access to contraception.
“I really have one question I have to ask my opponent,” Shilepsky said, while waving a string of unopened condoms at Gromacki. “He’s attacked a woman who wanted to make these available to everyone if they wanted. Are these things that you would approve of being sold in drug stores or at Target stores?”
Rep. Kahn followed up Shilepsky’s answer by saying that she too supported what Sanger stands for regarding women’s rights. She told a story about a black woman she marched with in the 1960s who described Sanger as one of her heroes.
“For any man to say that Margaret Sanger is not a hero of this century, I find appalling.”
Gromacki’s answer to Shilepsky’s question came during the next round, when he said the debate was not about his position on contraception, but Sanger’s support of eugenics.
“You can crucify me all you want,” Gromacki said. “If you want to defend the keynote speaker of a KKK rally, if you want to defend someone who commissioned the head of Adolf Hitler’s racial hygiene program, which now today is ethnic cleansing, be that as it may, go ahead. And you can crucify me in the process.”
Gromacki concluded his statements by saying that the issue was still a concern among African American and Jewish students.
Although the debate’s moderator, MPIRG’s Michael Dahl, moved on to questions about college costs and environmental issues, Shilepsky was not satisfied with Gromacki’s answer. He accused Gromacki and Kahn of being too extreme on their respective ends of the political spectrum and playing political games. He singled out Gromacki’s comments about Sanger, saying they defied common sense and belief.
“You play your political correctness games on the left and you’ll be matched on the right by other political correctness games,” Shilepsky said. “We’ve got to look at the virtues of people and respect those virtues.”
The debate concluded with several questions from the audience, including discussion about a new stadium for the Minnesota Twins, affirmative action and separation of church and state. Gromacki and Shilepsky were against the stadium, and Kahn said she would only support it if several conditions were met. These included public ownership of the Twins, no increase in property taxes to fund the stadium and the use of profits to support youth athletics.
All three agreed that prayer in public schools is not harmful, although Gromacki said he thinks putting God back into the public schools will improve education.